Aztec soccer passes 1st test on road to state title
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The Corona del Sol boys soccer team survived stressful moments early in the second half to defeat Highland, 4-2, in the first round of the state tournament.
The Aztecs controlled the ball from the outset of the match. Just after the two minute mark, the Aztecs drove into the box but were tripped attempting to get past a defender. The ref clearly didn’t want to make a decisive call that early in the game and he allowed play to continue.
Highland found the back of the net first, even without having sustained possession of the ball. The Aztec defense was passing the ball between themselves and the goalie when a Hawk forward decided to put pressure on the ball. The attempted clearance hit the forward in the back and deflected into the Aztec net.
“I’ll talk to both of our goalies,” Salas said. “We went out to California and (our goalies) had an amazing tournament. Then all of a sudden it’s just mistakes.”
Senior Ryan Flood responded just five minutes later. He received the ball with his back to the goal and turned away from his favored left foot. His right-footed shot skipped along the ground past the goalie to tie the score.
“We didn’t let one mistake change us,” Flood said. “We believed in ourselves.”
Just after halftime, Highland score again on what appeared to be a benign situation for the Aztec defense. A soft shot bounced off the goalie’s hands and dropped right to the feet of the Hawk attacker, who put it into the open net.
“We’re just making a lot of small mistakes,” Flood said. “We figure out all these big things, but we need to get our minds right.”
The Aztecs really put the pressure on the Hawk defense once they were trailing with 20 minutes left. Junior Preston Grayson fired over the net from five yards out before senior Austin Delaney headed the ball into the net, but it was waved off because of a foul. It seemed every shot from the Aztecs was a couple inches wide or was barely saved by the goalie.
“We just have to keep shooting,” Flood said. “That’s the key in soccer. Sometimes you’re not going to find the goal, but it will finally go in.”
Finally senior Tanner Pile broke through the Hawk defense. After a Flood free kick took a deflection, Pile ran onto the ball and headed it into the net. Not even a minute later, Flood turned around a defender and fired with his left into the bottom corner. Flood capped off the scoring 5 minutes later with a signature free kick that lasered around the wall past a helpless goalie.
“Flood is a player that comes around every three or four years,” Salas said. “He either is on your team or he isn’t. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
The Aztecs advance to play fifth-ranked and undefeated Tolleson Wolverines at home at 2 on Feb. 4th. With a win in that game the Aztecs would qualify for the semifinals.
“It’s playoff soccer at this point,” Salas said. “We’ll do the best we can and not change anything up if we don’t have to.”