Gilbert Highland girls soccer coach Jonathan Berzins insisted that it wasn't an upset.
"No, instead I'd say it was just the best game we've played all season," he said. "I wasn't surprised at all. I've known for a while that we were capable of playing at that kind of level."
Either way, the seventh-seeded Hawks denied Tempe Corona del Sol a chance at a third consecutive 5A-I state championship with a 1-0 win during a quarterfinal game Saturday at Tempe Sports Complex.
Corona del Sol coach Matt Smith, on the other hand, was pretty solemn after the game. And, well, you couldn't blame him. The second-seeded Aztecs, ranked No. 1 by the Tribune, finished the season at 22-2-1.
"When you have the kind of season that we had, it's really unfortunate to come out here and lose a close game like this," he said. "We had so many chances to take over the game today, but…I don't know. I guess it just wasn't meant to be for us."
On the only the goal in the game, junior Ashley Dell'Orso booted a shot with just enough force in the vicinity of the box where a swarm of players had gathered to get it by Corona del Sol goalkeeper Hailey Hayes in 20th minute.
"I had my back turned away from the net and I didn't even know the ball went in until I heard the cheers from my teammates," said Dell'Orso.
That play was set up when Chelsea Riedell kicked the ball from the sideline to Karisa Price who then passed the ball cleanly to Dell-Orso. Riedell and Price were each credited with assists, including the 22nd of the season for Riedell, a team record.
Still, there was enough time for Corona del Sol to come back. Memories of Wednesday's game were still fresh, a match where the Aztecs escaped with a 2-1 win against Gilbert Mesquite in first round play, after falling behind early in that match as well.
But even after the Aztecs took 17 shots at the goal they just couldn't get the ball passed Highland freshman goalkeeper Tessa Hamberlin, who finished with 13 saves.
By contrast, Highland took seven shots at the goal. Hayes of Corona del Sol finished with four saves.
There were plenty of scoring opportunities for Corona del Sol, especially in the second half when senior midfielder Alexis Burkhart was allowed to drive the ball and kick it toward the net four times, only to have those shots blocked by Hamberlin.
"Highland played an outstanding game," Smith said. "Their keeper really stopped a lot of our shots.
"Like I said, I just wasn't meant to be for us."
1 2 F
H 1 0 1
CdS 0 0 0
Scoring - H: Dell'Orso