Fri, Nov. 15

Mingus girls soccer falls to Flagstaff
Great overtime game ends 1-0

<b>Torey Braly</b> fights to advance the ball Wednesday night against Flagstaff at Sedona HS. Photo published with permission from the AIA. VVN/Sean Morris

<b>Torey Braly</b> fights to advance the ball Wednesday night against Flagstaff at Sedona HS. Photo published with permission from the AIA. VVN/Sean Morris

SEDONA--The season ended for the Mingus girls soccer team Wednesday night at Sedona High School after they lost to Flagstaff 1-0 in an overtime semifinal.

The east-side bleachers of the Sedona sports complex were full of supporters for both schools. The stage was set for an epic playoff fight between rivals.

To start the game Flagstaff played their possession style and they took a lot of shots from the outside, but Mingus keeper Courtney Hageman was on point just like she was in the last game between the two schools. She made play after play to keep Mingus in the game.

Flagstaff would advance the ball to around the 18, but Marauder defenders held strong and gave them nothing close to the net.

Mingus opportunities to score were fewer, but the Marauders knew they could win by shutting the Eagles down and formulating a successful counterattack.

In most games this year Mingus dominated their opposition by scoring in a multitude of ways, but Flagstaff is a great team and they controlled the ball and tried to make Mingus one-dimensional.

When Mingus mounted counterattacks they were outnumbered against huge, tall Flagstaff defenders that have great ball skills and field awareness.

The first half ended scoreless.

Flagstaff came out very strong in the second half taking more accurate shots, but Hageman made great saves over and over again. On a couple shots she had to punch them over the crossbar because Flagstaff was dialed in, but Hageman made it look simple.

Her teammates were excited after every great save and they congratulated her on the effort. As well as Hageman played in the first half, she played even better in the second.

The Marauders still had fewer opportunities to score than the Eagles, but they came closer to scoring in the second half than they did in the first. Nataly Escamilla was inserted into the game and she added a spark to the Mingus offense. They pushed the ball further into the Flagstaff defense and manufactured opportunities.

Mingus suffered a key injury close to the end of regulation when Lashea Taylor went down after bonking heads with a Flagstaff player. She was shaken up and taken off the field.

That was a big blow to the Mingus defense, but the Marauders still played well and pushed the ball forward in the last few minutes of the second half.

Kayla Dixon probably had the best shot with a few minutes left in regulation. It was a ripper from 40 yards out that came off her foot with rocket propulsion. It went above the crossbar, but below the football crossbar behind the goal. It was very close and if it had gone in it would have been the greatest goal of the season.

Unfortunately it didn't and the game went into overtime.

Flagstaff scored in the first 10-minute period of extra time. It was a perfect shot from slightly beyond the 18 that went straight to the upper V. It was indefensible. Hageman, nor any goalie in the history of soccer had a chance to stop it.

It was the first goal scored on Mingus in over a month.

The Eagles erupted in celebration and the Marauders stood in disbelief. Then they went back to work, knowing they had to score to force a shootout.

Everyone knew if Mingus could make it to PKs they would have an advantage with Hageman in goal.

The Marauders pushed hard, but halfway through the first overtime period Braly went down with an apparent concussion after smacking into an Eagle.

She did not reenter the game.

If there was one person Mingus needed on the field at that point it was Braly. They needed a goal and she's the number one scorer.

Losing Braly was a huge setback, but Mingus mounted a great effort after she went out.

MacKenzie Mabery was having a solid game (like she always does) and Head Coach Buddy Rhodes moved her to the striker position because she gave them the best chance to score.

She almost did.

With under a minute left in the first overtime period the ball was sent to the corner for Mabery to run toward. The ball was close to the 18 and the Flagstaff keeper came out to gather the ball, but it kept rolling and ended up outside the box. That meant the keeper couldn't pick it up with her hands and Mabery was there to challenge.

Mabery won the ball and sent a shot toward the open net, but she had a terrible angle and the ball went slightly wide.

"I took that shot and I thought it was going in," said Mabery. "We could have made it a tied game and I think we could have had them in PKs."

All Mingus needed was a player to be in front of the goal to tap it in, but it wasn't meant to be.

The first period of OT ended on that play.

Taylor reentered the game for Mingus in the second period of overtime and Rhodes switched up the defensive alignment. Taylor moved to sweeper and Anna Guerrero played Taylor's normal position.

Mingus threw in all their chips. They had nothing to lose, they needed a score and once again they almost got one.

Near the end of the game Mingus was attacking and gaining free kicks on the Flagstaff half of the field. With 20 second left in the game Mingus had their final opportunity, but it didn't materialize. The game ended 1-0 and the Eagles advanced to the championship.

It was another great game to add to the Mingus/Flagstaff rivalry and it ended a streak of six wins for Mingus.

"It's amazing that we were able to pull together and win six times in a row against a team as strong as Flagstaff," said Mabery after the game. "I knew one day they would prevail, I knew it was coming, but we can say we beat them six times and they beat us once. We've still got numbers on them."

Mingus had a great season. They didn't repeat as champions, but they had a great run and the future is bright for Mingus soccer.

They will lose some great seniors in Lashea Taylor, Kayla Dixon, Amanda Randolph, Allyn Backus, Jesse Zaske, and Courtney Hageman, but they have a lot of strong players coming back.

Hageman is an outstanding keeper, but next year will be Taylor Brott's time to shine in goal. Most of Mingus' defense is coming back for next year and captains Mabery and Braly will be seniors.

This year's team can hang their hat on the last Grand Canyon Region Championship, a final four appearance, and not allowing a goal for over a month at the end of the season. Braly also had the most dominant scoring season Mingus soccer has ever seen.

A bounce here, a bounce there and they would be playing for the title today. Notre Dame beat Arcadia in a shootout Wednesday, so the final is (1)Saints vs. (2) Eagles.

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