SCOTTSDALE -- With three second-half goals, the Mingus girls soccer team defeated Cactus, 3-0, Tuesday at Arcadia HS in a Division III Final Four game.
Haley Backus scored the first goal with a header lofted over the Cactus keeper, Nataly Escamilla scored the second with an accurate shot from beyond the box, and Martina Bueno scored the third on a powerful shot from the right.
The game was a tale of two halves. At first Mingus wasn't playing a possession style and they looked a little disjointed. Cactus won the possession advantage in the first half.
The Cobras created shots, but Mingus keeper Shelby Hughes stopped them with no problems. She was not tested in the game.
Mingus settled down in the second half and played much better possessing the ball.
"We weren't playing our game in the first half," said Escamilla. "At halftime Travis and Buddy told us to slow it down and focus on passing. We did that and we started scoring."
The win advanced Mingus to the championship game against the Campo Verde Coyotes, Friday 5 p.m. at Campo Verde HS. That's not a typo. The No. 4 Coyotes will get to host their own championship game. It's not fair, but according to sources, the venue will not be changed.
In a thread on the Verde Sports Facebook page, some have expressed disappointment with the scheduling, but Mingus senior defender Dalis Sealey posted, "I think . . . let them have home field advantage. We'll beat them any time, even on their own turf."
The Marauders have a championship mentality. The last time the girls were in a championship game, the current seniors were freshmen. Head coach Buddy Rhodes said the only freshman who got any varsity playing time that year was Nataly Escamilla. Rhodes substituted her into the championship game against Flagstaff, and Escamilla scored the winning goal.
That year everybody knew Mingus was great; they lost the championship game the previous year and it didn't surprise anyone when they made it back to the final and won it.
This year has been different. They had to work hard from day one. Rhodes said he didn't believe his team made it to the championship game until the buzzer sounded against Cactus. The team has very talented and experienced next-level seniors, but also less-experienced brimming-with-potential younger players that had to came into their own over the course of the season. It just goes to show, there's more than one way to achieve greatness.
"We've had young girls come in, who were off of Lee Canning's tournament team, and some of them we brought immediately to varsity, and others we've brought up as the season went on. Lee Canning has a big hand in our success this year," said Rhodes. "We've also got exceptional assistant coaches, Travis Mabery and Ricky Ward. The passing game is all Travis. I told him what I wanted to do this year with respect to changing the way we play, and he implemented those changes. Hats off to him. Conditioning, in this game against Cactus, I felt our team was much better conditioned, and you have to give credit to Jody Makuch. The staff has been great this year, and our girls have played above their heads. I would not have fathomed we'd be in the championship game this year. Whatever happens from here on out, this has just been an incredible season for us."
So far this postseason, the Mingus defense has not allowed a goal. The Marauders have outscored opponents, 11-0!
The Mingus girls are championship bound, are you? They sure could use your support in enemy territory. Campo Verde is in Gilbert, so carpool and split the bill.
Friday 5 p.m. BE THERE!