Scoring chance after scoring chance rolled to Campo Verde's boys' feet, but the conversion part kept bouncing away.
An offense which had been prolific through nearly the entire regular season was on its way again, but the final pieces of plays couldn't be completed, and it wound up ending No. 6 Campo Verde's season in a 2-1 loss at home to No. 14 Glendale Apollo in the Div. II state quarterfinals on Saturday.
In a rarity this season, Campo Verde found itself trailing 2-0 until superbly-skilled junior Sam Gleadle was tackled in the goalie box to set up a penalty kick in the final minute of regulation. Briley Guarneri knocked in the PK for Campo Verde's first conversion of the match, but after a late flurry, time ran out.
Gleadle used his speed and strength to set up numerous opportunities, and the Coyotes' through balls to him and Daniel Arellano allowed the Coyotes (20-3-1) to crash Apollo's goal. But shots went wide or were deflected.
"We had so many opportunities and I don't want to say we got what we deserved because we created those chances for ourselves, but we couldn't get them through and make the goalie make saves," Campo Verde coach Andrew Guarneri said.
A couple nifty saves by senior goalkeeper Jacob Fox and solid mid-level play by Bean McKenna, Marc Costello and Anthony Arellano allowed the Coyotes to push upfield while keeping Apollo's excellent midfielders and forwards away from the goalie box most of the day.
But a deflection Christian Hurtado off a shot attempt by Rodrigo Hernandez redirected into the net to give Apollo a 1-0 lead barely 10 minutes into the match.
The Coyotes again crashed inside Apollo's zone, as Gleadle, Derek Anderson and a header by Arellano were either deflected from point-blank range or missed the net's corners by a yardstick.
Less than two minutes into the second half, powerfully-legged Luis Tapia showed some touch off a throw-in and a deflection which kept the ball at his feet. His chip shot from 30 yards out went over Fox and into the corner for a 2-0 Apollo lead.
"They're not a 14-seed," Andrew Guarneri said of Apollo. "They're technically good, organized and stand a decent chance to win it all."
Gleadle had two more chances in the second half, a shot that went high off a corner and centering pass, followed by a breakaway on the side that was ruined by goalie Mario Estrada's sliding save.
Arellano had another shot in the middle off a pass from Gleadle but couldn't get a shot off. Briley Guarneri's header off a throw-in with five minutes barely went wide.
All of which left Guarneri's penalty kick conversion too little, too late.
Though obviously short of this group's championship aspirations and repeatedly frustrated by not converting chances it did practically all season, Campo Verde's 20-win season shouldn't be forgotten.
Andrew Guarneri is the school's fourth coach in the past four years, and while the senior class was led by Fox, Arellano and Costello, the Coyotes only have eight seniors on their 24-man roster.
Seven juniors, including Gleadle (38 goals and 17 assists), Briley Guarneri (nine goals, 15 assists) and Ries (four goals, 14 assists) will make up a core with four others who at minimum saw significant playing time.
"They like each other and work hard for each other, and every year it's been a different set of rules and expectations," Andrew Guarneri said. "Hopefully we can start to build something with consistency."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.