The top-seeded Flagstaff Eagles took down the No. 8 Thunderbird Chiefs, 2-0, in a low-scoring match Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the 4A Conference state tournament.
It was a physical game as both sides fought for possession. In the first half, it was clear that the Eagles came out to match whatever intensity the Chiefs would bring to Flagstaff's field.
“Our goal is to bring that high-level intensity out and definitely match what the other team is bringing, then take it one step up,” said Eagles head coach Holly Jones. “So I think overall, we definitely stepped up with our intensity overall, and our physicality. It was both teams back-and-forth throughout the whole game. I’d say the fifty-fifty balls were probably right at fifty-fifty, both of us winning them. So, I thought overall it was a very good game for us.”
The Eagles got in their scoring relatively early in the match, with both goals coming in the first half. The first came on a free kick that had the team leader in goals on the season, Maddie Shafer, go around her teammate Samone Marquez on the fake-free kick to rocket the ball over the glove of Thunderbird goalkeeper Kayla King in the eighth minute.
Both teams went scoreless until late in the opening half when another free kick for Flagstaff led to Marquez scoring in the final seconds.
Even without any scoring in the second half, the Eagles played to their strength and jumped out to the early lead.
“We just wanted to get at them as quickly as possible, apply as much pressure as possible,” Jones said. “Our focus is always to try to score as quickly as possible. The way you start is so important.”
The win over Thunderbird is Flagstaff’s ninth shutout this season and came as the closest victory since they beat Prescott 3-1 on the road Jan. 11.
In Jones’ first season back as head coach, the Eagles return to the semifinals for the second consecutive year. They will face No. 4-seeded Catalina Foothills at Williams Field High School on Tuesday.
The two did not share any opponents during the season, but Catalina Foothills has played No. 2 Salpointe Catholic twice. One meeting came in the Brandon Bean Soccer Tournament, with Catalina Foothills winning 3-0 and tying the state's No. 2 seed 1-1 in the regular-season finale.
In preparation for Catalina, Jones said her team does have an area they need to fine-tune heading into Tuesday.
“I think overall our communication can continue to improve,” Jones said. “I think the more we communicate the more we play like a team. Overall communication is something we will continue to work on.”
First kick is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Tuesday, with the second semifinal between No. 2 Salpointe Catholic and No. 6 Prescott to follow at 7 p.m.