For the second time in as many weeks the Sedona Red Rock High School girls soccer team took on the
No. 4-ranked team in Conference 3A, this time falling 3-1 to Anthem Preparatory Academy on Wednesday, Jan. 24.
The No. 14-ranked Scorpions celebrated senior day as midfielders Marissa Pedroza and Alicia Pallares along with goalkeeper/midfielder Anya Kulinchenco-Braun, who graduates a year early, played for the final time at John Ordean Stadium.
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“A big loss for the team. Great kids, personalities, hard work. They were an example for all of the girls, so it’s going to be a big loss,” Scorpions head coach Juan Carlos Aguilar said. “Out of the 40, 45 teams that are in 3A, being in the top 16, I think these girls should be proud, because if you think about it our team is basically sophomores.”
Despite the loss, the Scorpions still have a shot at qualifying for the state tournament. The seven region champions plus nine at-large teams qualify, the last nine coming from the top 16 in the rankings. They played again at North Pointe Preparatory Academy on Thursday, Jan. 25, although results were unavailable at press time.
The brackets are released on Friday, Jan. 26, on azpreps365.com.
“It was hard, definitely hard. I was really emotional at the beginning because I knew it was my last home game playing for the Scorpions and playing with Alicia. I’ve played with her every year pretty much since I was younger,” Pedroza said.
“It’s a lot to take in, you don’t realize it until the game’s over, and then you realize that it was the last time playing here and it really hurts. It all sinks in and it’s a little crazy,” Pallares said. “It goes by faster than you think. I remember playing when I was a freshman and seeing the seniors cry and I didn’t really understand it but now I do.”
Anthem Prep’s quality first touch, movement off the ball and organization saw Red Rock team mostly play defense. The first sign of danger came 10 minutes in, as Eagles sophomore midfielder Olivia Friedman’s left-footed shot forced Red Rock sophomore goalkeeper Carolina Lopez-Villegas into action.
Pallares’ 21st minute shot skipped wide, and two minutes after that Anthem Prep junior midfielder Georgia Vallery’s volley rung the crossbar.
The visitors broke through in the 30th minute. Friedman added to her team-leading goal tally, getting on the end of a free kick with acres of space to operate inside the penalty box. She finished high to Lopez-Villegas’ left, and despite the Scorpions’ pleas for offsides, the goal stood.
For Red Rock, Pedroza’s counterattack late in the half culminated in a corner kick, which sailed untouched high and past the far post.
After an emotional halftime ceremony, the hosts had another corner early in the second half. Pallares connected with a header, but failed to hit the target.
Despite giving up three goals, Red Rock’s defense was solid. Well-timed challenges and pressure kept the Eagles from creating intricate scoring opportunities.
Instead, they found more direct ways to score. Friedman grabbed her second of the day, and 18th of the season, in almost identical fashion to the first. In the 55th minute, she took a long free kick and slotted the ball into the near post.
Pedroza came within inches of scoring three minutes later, her 30-yard effort flashing by the post. The Scorpions’ best chances came when the Eagles brought numbers forward, and a quick turnover gave them a chance for a counterattack.
After an Anthem Prep corner, Lopez-Villegas found sophomore forward Amari Sonn with a long outlet. Sonn’s long through ball connected with junior forward Braeden Feldtkeller galloping into the penalty box, but her first-time shot went wide.
With eight minutes left, Sonn finally broke the offensive silence with a 35-yard free kick that went in straight over the head of the Anthem Prep goalkeeper. Eagles freshmam midfielder Callyn Crandall sentenced the game six minutes after.
Allowed the time and space, Crandall measured an unstoppable shot, hitting the upper corner from outside 20 yards.
“I’m going to miss being a part of the team, the family. We just make so many memories together, and we have the best coaches. Spending time with them every day it’s just amazing, we’re all doing the thing we love,” Pallares said.