The No. 3-seeded Northland Prep Spartans took care of business in their 2A Conference state tournament play-in game with a 7-1 win over the No. 6 Snowflake Lobos Tuesday night at a wet and rainy Lumberjack Stadium.
Instead of playing at their normal home turf at Sinagua Middle School, the Spartans played at the home of Northern Arizona soccer, and the venue change, along with the type of field, also led to some adjustments from Northland Prep.
The grass field was slick and muddy because of rain that fell throughout the day on Tuesday, causing some passing problems for the usually controlled Spartans, who are accustomed to playing on turf at Sinagua Middle School.
“The slickness was horrible,” Spartans midfielder Emma Blair said. “Even while warming up basic two-touch passing was rough. So the slickness definitely did affect us; however, that can’t be an excuse and we took care of business despite that.”
“It’s also a lot of fun playing on a college field,” Emma added.
Lumberjack Stadium, being a college-sized field, is larger than what the Spartans are used to and the coaching staff pointed to that being an advantage for Northland Prep. With the wider field Northland Prep was able to spread out its offense and work more diagonally than normal, and the size allowed for less fouls as players were not as bunched together.
“We love to play on bigger fields because we play possession and that takes the ticky-tackness out of the game as far as players coming in late and blowing our players up,” Spartans co-head coach Keith Hovis said.
The wet conditions took a little away from the Spartans on offense, causing multiple shots to miss the goal by just a few feet on either side. Snowflake goalkeeper Emily Rolow also held her own in the box, stopping numerous Spartans shots to keep the score down for as long she could.
The Spartans held a 3-0 lead at halftime behind two goals from Ellie Karren and one from Sydney Sventek -- who had four shots in the first half either blocked by Rolow or roll just left of the goal after winning a 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper.
Rolow also was able to do something that most goalies aren’t able to accomplish against the Spartans: win 1-on-1s with attackers. Throughout the game she was forced to leave the box but did so with success, getting multiple stops for her team.
Spartans co-head coach Michael Blair said the field also played into the Spartans struggles' on opportunities in the box against the Lobos.
“It was fast with the wet field and I’ll give them that, but we did some good stuff,” Michael said. “We stayed out of any injuries heading into Friday -- which is good.”
The Spartans came out of the second half a bit slow until Lobos forward Kaddie Kay got on the scoreboard just six minutes into the half. Just 20 seconds after Kay broke the shutout, Spartans midfielder Mia Blair found her sister Emma for a 20-yard goal, using the size of the field to stay wide on the perimeter of the attack.
“Our wings got to expand a little more and have a larger attack, so it was just a win-win for us except the slip and slide, but it worked,” Emma said.
From then on the Spartans defense closed off any openings and kept the Lobos from finding any clear shots on goal for the final 30 minutes of the game.
Karren and Sventek led the Spartans with three goals each, while Mia Blair led the team in assists with two in just her third game back from injury.
While Michael said the defense needs to tighten up ahead of the semifinals, he added that the offense needs to keep attacking so that the goals will start adding up.
The Spartans will face Round Valley at Campo Verde High School on Friday at 3 p.m. in Mesa looking to make a second consecutive appearance in the title round.
SPARTANS 3, COWBOYS 0
Casey Auza recorded 14 assists and a service ace, Sofie Linskey had seven kills and added two aces, and 11th-ranked Northland Prep cruised past region opponent Camp Verde on Tuesday to win on the road, 25-14, 25-20, 25-18.
The 2A Spartans (10-7, 6-5 Central Region) tallied their second straight 3-0 victory with the win after suffering three consecutive shutouts thanks to the full-team effort. Holly Clark contributed two kills and a block, and Megan Swinney registered 10 digs and an ace in the win.
Northland Prep completed the regular-season sweep of Camp Verde (5-12, 2-9) without dropping a set along the way.
The regular-season finale against the No. 20-ranked Sedona Red Rock Scorpions is next for the Spartans, who will celebrate Senior Night as part of the match. Thursday's region match-up is set to start at 6 p.m.
The Northland Prep Spartan swimmers competed in the small school championship meet at Phoenix Country Day School on Saturday in Paradise Valley, their last chance to qualify for the Division III state championships that will be held at PCDS Nov. 2-3.
"This was one of the best small school championships we've had," Spartans head coach Jeff Leid said. "The team swam 98 percent lifetime best times and it was a great way to end the season for so many of these kids who have never swam competitively before. I am very proud of the kids and their accomplishments this season."
Although the Spartans were missing a few key swimmers to illness, almost a quarter of the team achieved at least a provision time for the state meet. Senior Kyle Openshaw earned three provisional time standards in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events. Fellow senior Danny O'Brien earned two provisional time standards, junior Austin Qwan earned one automatic qualifier in the 100 backstroke to go with one provisional time in the 100 butterfly, and freshman Sam Prusacki earned two provisional times in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke.
The Spartans boys 200 and 400 freestyle relays also earned provisional times and those swims may be good enough to send those relays to the big stage.
On the girls side, sophomore Jillian Raab earned two provisional times in the 200 and 500 freestyle and the girls 200 freestyle relay also earned a provisional time. Raab was joined by juniors Madelynn Kaiser and Sierra Milligan and senior Karrie Lundstrom for the relay event.
"I am excited to see what happens in two weeks at the state meet," Leid said.
Now the Spartans wait it out as all the invitationals finish up and the state entries will be announced next Monday.
"Some of our individual swims and our relays are hovering around the top 24 or top 16 and so, besides Austin, we won't know who is going to the state meet until next week," Leid said. "No matter what happens, it was yet another great year for the Spartan swim program."