Looking to unseat a longtime Grand Canyon Region champion, the Coconino Panthers enter Thursday’s crosstown rivalry meeting with wins against Tempe, Paradise Valley and Peoria already on their resume.
Meanwhile Flagstaff, again led by head coach Holly Jones, looks to at least return to the 4A Conference state semifinals after last season’s penalty kick loss to Salpointe Catholic. After finishing 10-0 overall and 5-0 in the region, Flagstaff’s former head coach Jenna Samora departed, with Jones returning to the school she led to multiple state championships.
While the Eagles won 7-0 to close out last season against the Panthers, Coconino finished 7-3 overall despite having multiple games canceled completely. The year served as a bounce back from a 3-11 2015-16 campaign as the Panthers sought their first playoff berth since the 2011-12 season.
With the 4A Conference aligning its playoff bracket to include eight play-in games, both Flagstaff and Coconino could find themselves in the postseason. With the top eight seeded schools earning first-round home games, No. 9 to No. 24 will face off in the play-in games as the higher eight seeds host before being reseeded into the 16-team bracket.
After allowing just one goal in regulation last season, Flagstaff goalkeeper Lyza Bosselmann returns for her junior season as a captain along with junior Taylor Hazlett. With just four seniors on the varsity roster, Flagstaff also returns senior Calista Chaffin, junior Maddie Shafer, junior Zalma Batrez-Cardoza and sophomore Brianna White near the front of the attack as well as senior Samone Marquez, who returns from missing last year with an injury.
For Coconino, senior Alyssa Gregg, junior Tatum Bronson and junior goalkeeper Anna Peterson will captain the Panthers. Senior Rebekah Dial also returns as one of the team’s 10 seniors, making up nearly half the roster, as well as junior Erika Power, both instrumental in the Panthers' attack a year ago.
Similar to the boys schedule, both the Coconino and Flagstaff girls will be hoping for good weather late in the year. With the play-in game set for Jan. 25, both teams will finish their regular seasons on Jan. 23, when the Panthers play Youngker and the Eagles face Mingus Union on their home fields. Flagstaff lost two games due to snowstorms last season while Coconino dropped three. With 12 games scheduled for both teams, a similar result could push the two schools into an issue as the AIA requires 10 matches to be scheduled to be in consideration for the playoffs.