Facing off in November rather than in January as has been the case in recent memory, the Flagstaff Eagles and Coconino Panthers met Thursday at Coconino High School for the only time this season.
With Maddie Shafer scoring for Flagstaff less than a minute into the match, the first of four in the game for the junior, the Eagles pulled away quickly on the way to a 12-0 victory against the crosstown rival Panthers in the two teams’ 4A Conference, Grand Canyon Region opener.
Samone Marquez followed with Flagstaff’s second goal four minutes later and assisted another in the following minute as Shafer put in her second of the day. Calista Chaffin added Flagstaff’s fourth score on a penalty kick following a handball in the 22nd minute and Zalma Batrez-Cardoza finished the Eagles’ early push with her first goal in the 25th minute.
Led once again by coach Holly Jones, taking over for Jenna Samora, Flagstaff (1-0) is hoping to challenge itself in a new way each game this year.
“We are just playing every game differently, we are looking at who our opponent is and trying to bring something different tactically to each and every game,” Jones said. “So every game, we have a different challenge that we are looking at accomplishing.”
A free kick by Coconino (1-1) ended up in the arms of Lyza Bosselmann, with the junior keeper coming away with another a minute later. While Coconino kept Flagstaff off of the board for a 15-minute stretch, Shafer added on the sixth goal of the first half just seconds before the break.
Lydia Pelletier-Butler scored Flagstaff’s first goal of the second half, recovering a ball cleared out of the box and chipping it over all of Coconino’s defense from the edge of the penalty area. Shafer, Batrez-Cardoza and Chaffin all added goals in the next 10 minutes before Marquez and Anna Harmon scored in the final 10 minutes of the match.
Subbing in for Bosselmann with 23 minutes left, Jessi Harmon made a pair of saves in the final 17 minutes to maintain the shutout.
“What I wanted to do was just make sure the players that were on the field at the time were receiving some pressure and looking at different players in different positions,” Jones said.
While Flagstaff opened its season with the win, the match fell in the middle of a busy week for Coconino, who played Paradise Valley, Peoria and Central in a tournament across the past three days.
Coupled with a regular-season-opening 4-1 win at Tempe last week, Coconino outscored its opponents 20-3 through its first four matches. Led by eight goals from Rebekah Dial, the Panthers had seven players score through their four matches. Alyssa Gregg added four, Tatum Bronson scored three and Erika Power put in two goals.
“We know the reality of the two teams. We needed to focus on Flag High’s game, getting into the passing lanes and focus on getting to Friday, because Friday is the highlight of our week,” said Panthers head coach Lacey Chavez. “It’s been really hard having a game every single day; we will have had five games this week.”
While tired legs and injuries started to build up with the heavy workload for Coconino, the Panthers will face 5A North Canyon in Paradise Valley’s Pride in Paradise tournament. After wins against 5A Paradise Valley 3-0, 4A Peoria 4-1 and 6A Central 9-1, Coconino wraps up the tournament Friday at 7:45 p.m. before returning to regular-season play next week.
Chavez said the team expected to have success in the Valley, but came away with the best-case scenario as her team fought through all challengers. Missing a 4A playoff berth by just one spot, ranked No. 17 after a season-ending loss to Flagstaff last year, Chavez said getting the meeting with the Eagles out of the way has its benefits.
“We actually kind of took it as a positive. Like I told the girls, now we have Flag High off of our plate, they are not looming over us and we can kind of adjust our season,” Chavez said. “We know we have that loss, let’s put it in the past.”