It took over a half of play until someone was able to break onto the scoreboard and snap a scoreless game between the Flagstaff Eagles and the Mingus Union Marauders girls soccer teams Tuesday afternoon.
The two Grand Canyon Region squads played a close game for 48 minutes until the No. 5 Eagles scored four unanswered goals in the second half to cruise to a 4-0 Senior Day shutout over the No. 19 Marauders. In fitting fashion, Eagles senior Zalma Batrez-Cardoza netted a hat trick for her Conference 4A team in the win, scoring the final three goals for the host.
“I’m super excited for her. She’s been working really hard and so to see it pay off today, I think, was great,” Eagles head coach Holly Jones said. “I think Sam (Slaughter) did a great job for her setting up that last goal so she was able to earn that hat trick. I like that play out of Sam to be unselfish. Zalma’s been working hard all year for that, so it was huge to come up in today’s Senior Day game.”
Eagles senior Taylor Hazlett, who has missed the season due to injury, started for the Eagles and did the first kick, passing the ball to her teammates before being subbed out. Despite not making an impact on the field for her team, Hazlett -- who will be playing soccer at Northern Arizona next season -- has made her mark from the sideline.
“Even though we don’t have her, we do have her,” Jones said. “She’s been a great leader on the sidelines and at practice. I asked her to step in a role where she helps coach the backs just like she would if she was in the game. So, she has been a huge help this year. We definitely miss her hard work and ball-winning ability, and her ability to control us in the midfield.”
Flagstaff improved to 8-1-1 overall and stayed unblemished in the region at 4-0 with two games remaining in the regular season. Jones said following Tuesday’s win that each game she has challenged her team to focus on improving in certain areas as the team tunes up for the looming 4A playoffs.
Tuesday was all about possession. For the most part, Flagstaff was able to prevent Mingus from getting scoring chances while keeping control of the ball on the other end of the pitch.
“I think we are in a good place. There are some things we are still working on and some things we gotta fix. We are just looking at each game and picking a couple areas each game to focus on cleaning up,” Jones said. “ … The focus today was possession time, because we know that when we get put under a ton of pressure, we can tend to panic. So the more we focus on playing to feet and just possessing the ball, the goals will start coming.”
Flagstaff recorded 20 shots on goal -- most coming in the second half -- and Mingus only had six.
Flagstaff’s first goal of the afternoon came off the leg of Slaughter. On the scoring play Slaughter got by her defender who slipped on the turf, leaving a one-on-one opportunity with the Mingus goalkeeper. Slaughter rifled her shot past the keeper to break the 0-0 tie eight minutes into the second half.
About seven minutes later Batrez-Cardoza scored her first of three after getting loose through the Mingus defense. Again the Mingus goalie was left on an island and this time the ball bounced just past the keeper into the goal.
With a 2-0 lead the Eagles were still pushing the tempo on offense and eventually Batrez-Cardoza broke free with eight minutes left off an assist from fellow senior Brianna White.
Batrez-Cardoza then finished off the hat trick after Slaughter placed a pass right in front of the goal for her to send into the back of the net.
Next up for Flagstaff is crosstown rival No. 37 Coconino (3-8, 0-5 Grand Canyon) Thursday at Flagstaff High School. First kick is set for 3 p.m.
PANTHERS 43, MARAUDERS 22
No. 21-ranked 4A Coconino remained in the hunt for a playoff berth after beating No. 38 Mingus Union on the road in Cottonwood Tuesday.
The Panthers took their 10th win of the year and now sit at 10-6 overall and 7-6 in Grand Canyon Region play.
Kiana Manuelito led the scoring charge for Coconino with nine points while teammates Mahala Long and Maya Tijerin scored eight and seven points respectively.
The Panthers host No. 23 Peoria Friday at 7 p.m.
PANTHERS 46, MARAUDERS 40
Just like the girls squad, the No. 26 Coconino boys basketball team won a major region game, upsetting No. 18 Mingus on the road.
Panthers head coach Mike Moran called his team's effort tremendous and raved about how well his young team played in a tough environment with playoff implications.
Brennan Motes scored 16 points for Coconino and went 6 of 7 from the free-throw line. Preston Olney had 12 points and went 4 of 6 down the stretch to help close out the win.
The Panthers improved to 8-7 overall and 8-3 in the Grand Canyon Region, moving up to second in the region behind Lee Williams.
Coconino will be on the road at Peoria Friday at 7 p.m. in the Valley.