Perry girls going places in coming years - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Perry girls going places in coming years

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Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2014 12:04 am | Updated: 11:31 am, Sun Feb 16, 2014.

A deciding deflection went Pinnacle's way, a whistle Perry wanted for offsides wasn't heard, and a champion was crowed.

The No. 1-seed Pioneers won a second Division I girls soccer state championship in four years with their 1-0 win over No. 3 Perry on Saturday at Campo Verde High School.

But rarely does a championship come without consternations first, and Perry not only survived those times, but, until the title match, thrived.

A few players' emotions overflowed in the immediate aftermath of the loss, ones obviously opposite of their postgame reactions after beating Anthem Boulder Creek in the semifinals.

But an observer noted it didn't feel apocalyptic immediately afterward, and, as the Pumas noted afterward, there could have been any number of theories for this:

First-year coach Jason Dunn harkened his "win with class, lose with dignity" mantra as they applauded Pinnacle's trophy presentation. The Pumas only had five seniors on the roster. And it was, in the team's postgame evaluation, a worthy celebratory landmark in reaching the championship match as the Pumas try and emulate the recent successes of Pinnacle, Xavier and Highland.

"We'll celebrate this season and this trophy but there's a bigger one we want to get," Dunn said. "… We'll be back here."

Dunn's background of elite-level playing and coaching made him an obvious choice in the minds of Perry's administration, but the season began 2-5-2 between power rankings matches and the elite Arizona Soccer Showcase tournament, including a 2-0 loss to Pinnacle, who also knocked Perry out in last year's state quarterfinals.

While mixing and matching players and combinations as many coaches do during tournament play, the Pumas learned two things: McKenna Dunn needed to move from forward back to her natural defensive spot, and the Pumas learned playing against three elite teams in the showcase was a preview of mid-February, and that they were heeding Dunn's approach and attitude even in defeat.

"They proved they wanted to be out there and treated each other like family," he said. "When they wear that on their sleeves out there, it's hard to stop us."

McKenna Dunn moved back to her natural defender position in January, and the team kept with Dunn's more structured approach, listening to his assertion this unranked and unheralded team in preseason was capable of championship-caliber play.

"We came back and started a streak," said junior defender Emily Romer, who, along with the junior Dunn made several outstanding defensive plays on Saturday to keep Perry in contention.

That streak reached 12 consecutive wins, including a 1-0 victory against Highland on Jan. 21 that opened eyes internally.

"It wasn't just talk anymore," Romer said. "It took awhile for us to put things together but we began to believe in ourselves and we could be a championship team."

Saturday was the first loss since the calendar flipped to 2014, but in defeat they still didn't let two of the elite offensive players in the state in Pinnacle forwards Jorian Baucom and Gabriela Stoian (52 combined goals in 2013-2014) beat them.

"Our chemistry got us here," Romer said. "You don't get another team like this."

It could be true, but with 12 juniors, three sophomores and four freshman on the roster, next year's team could be one outcome better.

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]