The No. 1 ranked Mingus Union girls soccer team defeated No. 8 Palo Verde, 2-0 on Friday. This win sent Palo Verde home for the season, while the Marauders advance to the Final 4 of the 4A II State Girls Soccer Playoffs.
The Marauders are on a quest to make it back to the Championship game, and they are one win away from getting there. On Friday the Marauders battled a tough Palo Verde team out of the Gila Region. Palo Verde defeated Notre Dame in the 1st round to take on Mingus in the Elite 8.
Against Palo Verde, the Marauders scored their first goal, 30-minutes into the first half. Natalie Rivera passed the ball to Torey Braly. Braly had to work the ball around defenders and then fired a shot back across the face of the goal and into the back of the net.
"It was the exact pace and the exact placement," said Mingus coach Buddy Rhodes. "It showed tremendous composure."
The game remained, 1-0 by halftime. The Marauders scored their second goal at about 20-minutes into the second half. Again, Rivera passed the ball to Drea Duke. Duke juked one defender and sent a power-shot into the goal, hard enough to avoid anyone from blocking the shot.
The goal gave some relief to the Marauders. The defense held off any kind of offensive strike from the Palo Verde team and got the 2-0 playoff win.
Palo Verde came with a 3-5-2 formation on the field. With the mid-field packed, Alina Mouritsen and Drea Duke did a very good job of controlling the middle of the field, often double-teamed by the Palo Verde players. On the outside, Kayla Dixon, Kelsey Huber and Mackenzie Mabery did an excellent job of controlling the lanes, which was key on defense.
"They are just very stingy," said coach Rhodes about his defense. "I just can't say enough about our defense. They stepped up and played exceptional."
The Marauders out-shot Palo Verde, 18-4 in 80-minutes of play.
"Palo Verde came in prepared. We anticipated that they were going to be good," said coach Rhodes.
The Marauders advance to the semifinals, where they will take on fellow Grand Canyon Region team, No. 4 Coconino. The Marauders have played the Panthers twice this season. The first game was in the regional tournament, where the Marauders edged the Panthers, 2-1. The second game was in the regular season region play, where the Marauders defeated the Panthers 5-0.
"We are anticipating the 2-1 team," said coach Rhodes. "They have a lot of speed and are aggressive."
Coconino made it to the semifinals with an overtime win over Douglas, 2-1. On the other side of the bracket, the other two remaining teams are No. 2 Flagstaff (out of the Grand Canyon Region) and No. 3 Arcadia (East Sky Region).
As a testament to how tough the Grand Canyon Region is, three of the last four remaining teams in the 4A II State Tournament are from the region.
"Our region definitely prepares you for State," said coach Rhodes.
If Flagstaff defeats Arcadia in the semifinals, then the Championship game will be an all Grand Canyon Region match-up.
The Marauders will take on Coconino on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 5 p.m. at Chaparral High School (6935 E. Gold Dust Ave., Scottsdale AZ 85253). The Flagstaff vs. Arcadia semifinal will be played right after at 7 p.m. The winners of those two games will play in the Championship game on Friday, Feb. 12 at Campo Verde High School (3870 Quartz St., Gilbert AZ 85297). The game will begin at 5 p.m.