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LAS VEGAS KICKOFF: Young Panthers take third place

Palo Verde’s girls soccer team will lose eight seniors after this season.

But if a weekend tournament is any indicator, head coach Frank Messina should be confident in his team’s future.

Freshman forward Autumn Alderson scored two goals and Palo Verde showed off its youth Saturday, with 6-2 win over Clark in the third-place match of the Las Vegas Kickoff at Madeira Canyon Park. The Panthers were 4-1 in the tournament. Liberty (Calif.) beat Mingus (Ariz.) 3-0 for the tournament title.

With most of the varsity team in North Carolina for a club soccer showcase, Messina called up most of his junior squad for the tournament. What he got was a pleasant surprise.

“It’s good to know that we have younger players that take the initiative to take that step to the varsity level,” Messina said. “Obviously the speed of play is different on the varsity level. To not get too nervous, and to be able to step into those games without much coaching, they just stepped in and took charge.”

Alderson made her presence known less than a minute after halftime. The Panthers strung together a chain of passes before Kori Jeffries dribbled to the left side, then delivered an easy ball that Alderson punched into the back of the net from inside the penalty box.

The freshman added a goal off a header in the 67th minute.

“I was nervous, but I was really excited, too,” said Alderson, who saw her first varsity action in the tournament. “I was just going to play my best and give it all I had. I’m just happy to be here and experience this whole thing.”

The Panthers peppered Clark with 13 shots on goal, and narrowly missed the target eight other times.

Alexis Vega knocked ball through the legs of Clark goalkeeper Keri Thacker three minutes into the game for the opening score, and Palo Verde added goals by Lana Laudermilch and Jeffries in the first half.

Clark’s Kealani Chaidez converted a late penalty kick to pull the Chargers within 3-1 at the break. Clark threatened the goal four other times, but Palo Verde keeper Stacie Gubler preserved the lead.

Alderson then helped the Panthers quickly retake control of the game after halftime.

“I just came out as hard as I could,” Alderson said. “I did whatever I could to make something happen.”

Azucena Bernal scored for Clark in the 72nd minute, zigzagging around three defenders to place an arcing shot into the back of the net.

Palo Verde’s Grace Moore scored five minutes before the final whistle for the final margin.

“They’re willing to step up,” Messina said of his younger players. “It was nice to be able to give the younger girls the opportunity to take that step, to give them a little taste of what the future holds. I would like my whole team to be here, but they’re in bigger places.”

Green Valley 5, Sierra Vista 0 — Alyssa Rodriguez had two goals and an assist to help the Gators blank the Mountain Lions.

Lauren Avecilla, Kalina Sombrio and Kayla Anderson also scored for Green Valley, which led 3-0 at halftime.

Summer Dano had the shutout.

Foothill 5, Sunrise Mountain 0 — Elizabeth Philpot notched three goals and an assist to give the Falcons a win over the Miners.

Sarah Dusenbury added a goal and an assist for Foothill, which also got a goal from Dominique Clough.

Goalkeeper Kimberly Callen made two saves to pick up the shutout.

Clark 3, Green Valley 0 — Chaidez had a goal in leading the Chargers past the Gators, and into the third-place game.

Rachel Soohoo and Amanda Vallejo also scored for Clark.

Thacker claimed the shutout for the Chargers.

Palo Verde 1, Foothill 0 — Vega scored in the second half to give the Panthers the win.

Gubler notched the shutout for Palo Verde.

Liberty (Calif.) 5, Sunrise Mountain 0 — Quianna Ashley-White had two goals and an assist to lead the Lions past the Miners.

Mingus (Ariz.) 4, Sierra Vista 0 — Gabbi Guerrero had two goals and an assist to send the Marauders past the Mountain Lions.

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