A 21-win season fell just short of a state title appearance as the Perry girls’ soccer team lost to Xavier 2-0 in the 6A state semifinals Wednesday night at Campo Verde.
Perry’s offense, which averages 5.6 goals per match, could not find the back of the net against an aggressive Xavier defense that’s allowed three goals the last seven games.
The Pumas finished with a 21-3-1 record, but Puma coach John Roberts says it’s a bittersweet ending.
“We just had a great run this year,” Roberts said. “Biggest thing for me is the kids put in the work all year long. Obviously, you hate to see kids put in that much work and not reap the rewards from it.”
Perry struggled with ball possession in the first half as Xavier senior forward Quiqui Hita scored four minutes into the game. After a halftime pep talk, the Pumas came alive, aggressively attacking Xavier’s defense and creating multiple scoring opportunities.
Momentum switched back to Xavier with 18 minutes left in the second half though. A tie-up between players near the goal resulted in a penalty kick for Xavier that made it 2-0 in favor of the Gators.
“Two-nothing is a dangerous situation,” said Xavier coach Barbara Chura. “If one goal goes against you and you have that lead, the momentum changes and then all of a sudden it’s like gangbusters.”
Xavier was able to prevent Perry from any comeback attempt. The Gators now head to the state championship to play Desert Vista on Saturday.
Although Perry won’t be playing this weekend, forward Kiara Parker is still grateful for her team’s effort. She was one of seven seniors on the team that helped Perry become the third ranked team in state.
“I’m just really proud of everyone for all the effort they put in,” Parker said. “We put in a lot of hard work. I’m lucky to play with these girls.”
As for next season, the future is bright.
“I know this team is going to get far next year, too,” Parker said. “We have a huge junior class that has a bunch of great leaders on it.”
Roberts will put the loss behind him and start to get ready for next year.
“The 2017-2018 season starts tomorrow,” Roberts said. “The mentality of this program is we might be down but we’re not out because we’re going to be in this position again next year.”