Sedona Red Rock High School’s girls soccer team is on a two-game winning streak after beating Scottsdale Christian Academy 3-2 in overtime and Santa Cruz Valley High School 10-1.
A thin and young roster, with few bench players and a starting 11 that features nine underclassmen, the team is finding better cohesion and play than it had at this point last year. The win over the Scottsdale Christian on Thursday, Dec. 7, was the best showing the group has put together.
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“Everyone showed up to that game. We have freshmen, we have different levels of experience and all that stuff, but I think when we need them in the big games, they are there,” Scorpions head coach Juan Carlos Aguilar said. “I’m happy for them for that.”
Playing as team, with each player’s dedication to fulfilling their respective role, has been one of the Scorpions’ [2-0] greatest attributes. But a goal scored by sophomore striker Amari Sonn created by individual skill lifted the team to the overtime victory.
Soon after the start of the first extra period, Sonn was approaching the Eagles’ goal with the ball. Two defenders closed in at once, and Sonn passed the ball to herself around them, recovered it and scored the game-winner, which dribbled between the legs of the Eagles goalkeeper.
Last season, in Scottsdale, Red Rock lost 3-0.
This year’s team includes a defense of four sophomores, sophomore goalkeeper Carolina Lopez-Villegas and Sonn up front. All have returned that much more experienced after playing as starters their freshman year. Seniors Marissa Pedroza and Alicia Pallares hold things together in the middle of the field. Come game time they put in a strong shift together as a unit.
“They are very tight together, very united. I told them that it’s not an individual effort, everyone [contributes] to the team,” Aguilar said.
The Scorpions trailed early against the Eagles on a free kick. Red Rock’s best chance through the first 20 minutes was when Sonn crossed the ball low to junior striker Braeden Feldtkeller, who struck the ball wide on her one-time shot.
However, Pallares evened the score two minutes later. A well-timed through ball freed Pallares to attack the goal down the left, and with a defender on her right shoulder, she managed to strike the ball into the near corner.
One minute later, Sonn gave the Scorpions the lead. After Scottsdale Christian had tied the game in the second half, it was awarded a penalty kick with five minutes left.
Lopez-Villegas, who finished with nine saves, made the most important one when she stopped the spot kick, also saving the team from defeat.
“One thing that I like from them is when they’re against the ropes, when they play a better team, they showed up,” Aguilar said. “They gave it all against a team that is very strong. I like that work ethic that they have.”
On Monday, Dec. 11, Red Rock poured in 10 against a 10-man Santa Cruz Valley team. Pedroza converted a counterattack opportunity to open the scoring nine minutes in. Pallares finished off a low cross by Sonn into an open net a minute later. Sonn then scored herself on a left-footed strike from about 21 yards out.
Pallares secured her second goal a minute after that, the ball dribbling between Santa Cruz Valley junior starting goalkeeper Adriana Juarez’s legs.
Another long-range effort from Sonn made it 5-0 at halftime. Aguilar looked for his team to put together passes and communicate.
“When we have a team that doesn’t put pressure, you don’t have an opportunity to at least do that, and I really think they did,” Aguilar said. “They passed the ball around and around and they created their own opportunities and were able to score.”
In the second half Pedroza scored twice in a row to finish off her hat trick. Sophomore left back Ariana Parra-Landaverde scored twice and Feldtkeller once.
Santa Cruz Valley freshman backup goalkeeper Crystal Camacho totaled nine second-half saves.