It was tough going for the No. 4 Flagstaff Eagles Tuesday night at Coconino High School in the second round of the Conference 4A playoffs.
Hosting the fifth-seeded Catalina Foothills Falcons, Flagstaff struggled to keep possession and withstand a strong attack from the visitors -- ending in a 4-0, shutout loss, eliminating the Eagles before the semifinal round for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
Unlike the Eagles' round-one win over Estrella Foothills on Saturday, Flagstaff couldn't control possession against the Falcons.
The Falcons' first goal came early, just eight minutes into the game. Catalina’s Ellie Robinson took a through ball past a trio of Flagstaff defenders. Her initial shot was blocked by Flagstaff goalkeeper Lianna Albert, who stretched out her left leg to make the save. Robinson quickly recovered and headed the ricochet into the back of the net.
The early goal set the tone for the rest of a cold night at Cromer Stadium.
“I think they got up on us early, and whenever that happens your whole game plan has to change at that time,” Eagles head coach Holly Jones said. “Then they get to play a little bit different as well. They got up on us 1-0 and we just weren’t able, you know, to put in our opportunities we had in the first half. So the longer it went with us down I was just trying to throw numbers up, just trying to get a goal versus worrying about if we lost by an extra goal or two.”
Just a few minutes following the opening score, the Eagles had a shot go off the top bar and then off a Catalina defender following a free kick on one of the home squad’s best chances of the night. Flagstaff couldn’t convert on the ensuing corner kick.
The rest of the first half was a slug fest with both teams playing physical, ending at a 1-0 advantage for Catalina entering the break.
Five minutes into the second half Catalina again scored off another deflected ball in the box to take an early 2-0 second-half lead.
After failing to get a clean look to go off a free kick, Flagstaff’s Maya Shearon was given a yellow card after she collided with a Catalina forward on the rebound. The Falcons made good on the free kick, sending a pass that found a pair of Falcons directly in front of the goal to take a commanding 3-0 lead with 13 minutes left in the match.
The final goal of the night came seven minutes later off a deflected ball in the box.
Flagstaff ends its season at 10-1-1 in the regular season and 11-5-1 counting tournaments and the playoffs.
“I’m really proud of them. All season they worked hard and pushed each other,” Jones said. “They believed in one another. It was a great year and I enjoyed this season. It was one of my favorite seasons to coach -- even losing at this round I’m still happy and thought it was a fantastic season. I’m very proud of them and really enjoyed working with them. They’re a great group of girls.”