The Perry High School girls soccer team grinded out a 2-0 win over Chandler Saturday afternoon, to advance to the AIA 6A soccer playoff semifinals.
On a hot, sunny day, both teams appeared a little bit flat to start the quarterfinal match, with neither team having many quality chances on the opponent’s goal throughout the first half.
The Perry Pumas looked the aggressor early, but seemed a bit shy of taking too many risks, while the defenses on both teams played stout to end the half at 0-0.
“Our center backs do a good job talking to everyone in front of them to prevent balls coming back to them. That’s the big key, our defense, everything is built around defense,” Perry coach John Roberts said.
At the 27:20 mark in the second half, it was a Perry defender that manufactured the game’s first goal.
The Pumas, clearly playing with more energy and urgency after the break, played the ball up the left side of the field, to senior defender Delaney Uyeshiro.
From no less than ten feet outside the box, Uyeshiro served what looked like a cross with her right foot on net. However, while her teammates ran toward the goal to try and tap it in, the ball sailed into the top right corner of the net.
In what looked like a mix between elation and possibly a bit of surprise, the Perry girls ran to Uyeshiro, jumping and hugging one another to celebrate the beautiful strike.
Roberts, understanding the Chandler goalkeeper might have trouble tracking the ball in the sun, said his assistant coaches had instructed the defenders to take that exact shot if given the chance.
“I was trying to shoot the ball. I’ve got to give credit to my outside wing, who made an awesome pass for me to get it,” Uyeshiro said. “Everyone was there that needed to be there if I didn’t score it, but it was just a great placed ball.”
From that point, Chandler pushed midfielders up the field, and pressed the Puma defense with energy that had seemingly been absent before. Perry was able, though, to stay organized on defense and keep the Wolves from any real threat, needing just two saves by goalkeeper Makayla Aman to keep a clean sheet.
“Our defense is a brick wall. They’ve been playing together forever,” senior Trinity Kaufman said, giving credit to each player individually, and added, “They just weren’t letting anyone past them.”
The stout back line allowed Perry to continue to push the ball up the field, and continue attacking, which led to a last-minute chip-shot goal off a break by freshman Mikella Reed to all but seal the game.
The victory will serve memory for the Puma seniors, who celebrated their last game on a field they had called home for four years.
“Honestly, we’re going out with a bang, and it was really awesome to get this win with my team. It’s the last time I’m going to step on the game field as a player,” Kaufman said. “I’m sure I’ll come back and watch, but it’s not the same as playing, and I’m glad we won our last game here. It’s great.”
But, the team realizes that now is not the time to look back fondly on their time as Pumas, placing full focus on its semifinal match.
“It’s all heart and will from this point on. You can kind of throw skill out the window, it just comes down to who wants it the most,” coach Roberts said.
The semifinal round will be played on February 6 at Campo Verde High School.