Months after her young Eagles team survived post-regulation matches to win the 4A Conference state title, Flagstaff girls soccer head coach Holly Jones can add another plaque to her collection.
Although she was snubbed for the 4A coach of the year award -- that honor going to Prescott head coach Paul Campuzano -- Jones was named the Arizona small school girls soccer coach of the year by the United Soccer Coaches Association for the winter season.
It is Jones' first award from the United Soccer Coaches Foundation, and it comes following a roller coaster of a season in 2019-20.
Jones and her coaching staff helped lead a young group of Eagles to some unexpected heights. The Eagles won all four of their state tournament matches post-regulation -- and the final three by penalty kicks behind dominant play in the net by Eagles goalkeeper Lianna Albert, the Arizona Daily Sun girls soccer athlete of the year.
The insane title run, Jones said Wednesday afternoon, probably played into her getting the recognition -- although, as she often does, she passed much of the praise to her team and assistant coaches.
"For me it's more about honoring the players," Jones said, adding the award is about as much about her players as is it about her coaching staff as well. "I think any time a coach gets an award it really goes back to how the players react to expectations and the season. I think everything that comes around goes back to players."
The Eagles always had the goal to win the title, but the vibe around the 4A Conference was that the Eagles would be strong as always under Jones -- the team is 32-3-1 since 2017-18 with two 4A title match appearances in that span -- but were a young squad and a title was a tough ask with more experienced teams in the 4A.
The youth obviously didn't matter too much with gutsy, clutch wins that showed the team was wise beyond their years. And that youth, Jones said, made coaching the team one of the easier and more fun experiences from her long career.
"I actually found this season to be one of my easiest seasons from a coaching perspective," Jones said. "They were so young and they bought in, like I said. They supported each other and were truly a team. They believed in each other and genuinely enjoyed being around each other. ... I definitely found this season and this group to be easier."
Jones added that due to the youth, she felt her team was able to quickly learn and adapt almost on the fly.
Robyn Carlson with Chaparral, a 6A Conference program, was named the Arizona large school girls soccer coach of the year.
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