Conditions were different – with heavy rain, cold, wind and their first 6A final – but the result was the same for the Chaparral High girls soccer team on Feb. 21 in the state-championship match.
The Firebirds won their third straight title, upsetting nationally ranked Perry, 2-1, in Gilbert.
Chaparral won back-to-back 5A titles before moving up a conference this season. It came in as a perceived underdog to the Pumas, who were ranked No. 1 in the country early and remained in the MaxPreps national top 10 all season, even though Chaparral received the tournament’s top seed based on strength of schedule.
Firebirds senior Taylor Rowe said that doubt about their chances in the Valley soccer community and Perry’s national ranking and winning streak motivated them. Chaparral’s two goals doubled Perry’s total allowed all season. The Pumas had not been scored on since their 4-1 victory over Red Mountain in November.
Ignoring their cold, wet uniforms, the Chaparral girls screamed “three-peat” as they hoisted their trophy. They said it felt extra sweet due to the adversity required to get there.
“We knew they would be a tough team, and we knew how long it had been since somebody scored on them. With us moving up to 6A, a lot of people didn’t believe we’d be here again. It just feels amazing,” Rowe said.
Chaparral coach Robyn Carlson credited her team’s defense.
“They all covered for each other. If one went down or was out of the play the others went and made up for them, and they just played a tremendous game together,” Carlson said.
Perry coach John Roberts also praised his team’s defensive effort.
“I can’t tell them how proud of them I am. The energy and the drive to get to this game was incredible. We’re blessed to have these girls as a part of our program,” Roberts said.
The Pumas fielded a young squad. Roberts said the team will use the loss as motivation to get back to the final, and hopefully win it next year.
“We’ll start working tomorrow for next season. That’s how these girls are. They want to keep getting better, and I know we’ll be back,” Roberts said.
Perry came out from kick-off as the aggressor, moving the ball with precision passes from the midfield, but struggled to connect on a final pass in the box to get quality shots on goal.
Starting early, Chaparral had significantly fewer possessions but capitalized when it had the ball. Crosses from the outside, in the run of play and on set pieces, were the Puma defense’s weakness. Carlson instructed her team to do just that, knowing that long sets of passes on the ground would be difficult to control in the cold, wet conditions.
With 16 minutes left in the first half, Chaparral senior Keeley Bond received a cross from the left side and slotted the ball into the net to take a lead the Firebirds would not relinquish.
“We tried to get it up to the forwards and get it wide and just press. All season we worked on different challenges. This was just another one,” Carlson said.
Perry again came out the aggressor in the second half, continuing its possession-heavy style, and again could not connect on a final pass for significant shots on goal. Chaparral’s Bond scored again in the second half, after a corner kick bounced around several players’ feet in the box, and ended up in her possession near goal to grow the lead to 2-0.
Perry scored with 12 seconds remaining.