Declarations were first made during tryouts, when Campo Verde coach Rosanne Headley declared to her girls that the goal was a state title, and anyone not interested, "grab your bag and there's the gate," she recalled.
But not until a week before the postseason did the state title subject re-surface, and, left to the Coyotes' own devices, Campo Verde wasn't going to put a third consecutive playoff run to waste.
Two consecutive falls in the quarterfinals apparently became a precursor to this, a 1-0 victory against Cottonwood Mingus in the Division III state championship on Friday which - three weeks removed from the players' "All right, let's make history," prophecy, allows the Coyotes' girls to be the first in placing a team sport's championsihp trophy inside the school's walls.
In being the first team sports title won in Campo Verde's brief history (the school opened in 2008), Campo Verde deservedly celebrated like it afterward, on its home field while wearing road jerseys because the Coyotes were the No. 4 seed while Mingus was No. 3.
"They embraced everything," Headley said of her team.
Still, Campo Verde paid a price. Three minutes into the match, junior captain Meg McDowell fell to the Fieldturf in agony and was helped off the field. The talented midfielder was done for the day as Headley said afterward that McDowell suffered a torn ACL.
Headley's eyes welled up and she nodded her head when asked about McDowell's impact on the team.
With McDowell already devastated, not to mention a potentially crushing blow to Campo Verde on the field, the Coyotes instead dominated possession and forced pressure on Mingus' defense the entire 80 minutes.
Campo Verde goalie Britney Cantino only made three saves all day.
With several chances which didn't fully unfold, it was senior captain Shannon Costello as the saving grace for Campo Verde. A scrum in front of Mingus' goal led to a shot and a rebound, and the 6-foot-tall Costello was in the right place to knock it into the corner of the net with 18 minutes left in the first half, the only goal Mingus' allowed this postseason.
"We set the foundation for other (Campo Verde) teams at the school to build on," Costello said.
Mingus found a few opportunities and forced action more frequently in the final 10 minutes of the match, but the Coyotes' defense played like a unit which allowed 11 goals all season and won three state tournament matches by one-goal margins.
Costello and Lauren Crenshaw and Colleen Kettner all had stand-out performances. But the lasting moments of this championship team could be McDowell on crutches, pushing her body as fast as she could on crutches to reach her teammates near midfield in celebration.
"It's surreal right now," Headley said. "They fought and struggled for this."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.