AIA executive director Harold Slemmer has become so accustomed to presenting the Chandler Seton Catholic girls soccer team with a state championship trophy that he did it again Friday night.
Only this time it wasn’t the Sentinels’ to have. After the Seton players passed the trophy around, which briefly brought smiles to their teary-eyed faces, they handed it back and unenthusiastically accepted the second-place hardware, a foreign experience for the program.
A 1-0 loss to No. 1 seed Flagstaff in the 4A Division II title game at Arizona State’s soccer stadium marked the first time in seven years the school has not ended a season on top. The No. 2 Sentinels (16-5) came into Friday having won six straight titles, all at the 1A-2A-3A level.
“It was exciting to make it to the championship because we just moved up to 4A,” said goalie Molly Barlow, who finished with eight saves. “It was a good accomplishment, but we had a dynasty going, so it’s kind of upsetting.”
The Eagles (15-5), meanwhile, may have started a dynasty of their own. They won the 4A-II title last year as well, defeating Tucson Palo Verde by the same score.
Defender Kelsea Randall netted the game’s lone goal in the 70th minute when she corralled a long pass from midfielder Elyse Cavolo about 10 feet in front of the goal, turned 180 degrees in a crowd and shot it past Barlow.
“There was just a scramble, and I went out and she tapped it by me,” Barlow said.
It was the first goal of the season for Randall, who was injured at the start of the season after an auto accident.
“That was big for her,” said Flagstaff coach Holly Jones, who made the coaching move of the night when she subbed in Randall and Cavolo in the 58th minute.
The Eagles, though, would not have won without two huge stops by goalie Natasha Slaughter. The senior, who will take her talents to Northern Arizona next season and didn’t allow a goal during the state tournament, prevented defenders Megan Rush and Jenna Bowers from scoring on breakaways in the 15th and 65th minute, respectively, with a pair of highlight-quality sliding saves.
“They were unbelievable,” Seton coach Casey Tate said. “Their goalkeeper played excellent tonight. She was the difference maker.”
“The thing she loves to do is come up big,” Jones said. “On those key saves, it’s so much fun watching her. She couldn’t have had a better night tonight.”
Despite the loss, Seton could very well be back in the championship game next season. Its roster includes only five seniors. “We’re young,” Barlow said. “We should be pretty good next year.”
BOYS 4A DIVISION II CHAMPIONSHIP
Glendale Raymond S. Kellis defeated Tucson Catalina 4-2 in the title match at ASU’s soccer stadium.