Jay Howard was asked about his team’s dominant defense, and the Arbor View girls soccer coach snickered.
“The funny thing is,” Howard said, “through the preseason we were giving up goals.”
Bailee Davis and Lexi Epley provided the offense, and the Aggies limited high-scoring Bishop Gorman to four shots on goal in a 2-0 victory in the Sunset Region final Saturday at Heritage Park.
Arbor View (14-1-4), the defending state champion, advanced to the Division I state tournament in Carson City and will play the No. 1 seed from the North on Friday.
“I’m proud of the girls,” Howard said. “It’s hard to do it twice in row against such good teams in our region.”
The Aggies allowed four goals in their first five matches, so Howard tweaked his team’s defensive system after the Las Vegas Kick-Off. Since then, Arbor View has given up one goal in 14 games.
The Gaels (15-1) came in averaging more than five goals per game and figured to test Arbor View’s back line, but Gorman didn’t generate a quality chance until the 27th minute when Arlie Jones dragged a shot wide of the goal.
“We lost one game all year, and it’s unfortunate it’s this one,” Gaels coach Doug Borgel said. “We never got it going today. It was probably the worst game we’ve played all year, and I attribute a lot of that to Arbor View.
“Our strength is up top, and their strength is their defense. Those two powers collided, and they won that battle.”
The Aggies broke through in the seventh minute as Breanna Larkin was fouled at the top of the box and Davis buried the free kick from about 20 yards out.
“I think that early goal was big for them,” Borgel said. “We’re a front-running team.”
Gorman controlled play for the final 15 minutes of the first half, with the best chance coming in the 33rd minute as Kaila Brinkman forced Arbor View goalkeeper Kylie Wallace into a diving save.
The momentum carried into the second half as the Gaels had two good chances early. Daisy Cabrera’s header from close range sailed over the crossbar in the 44th minute, and Wallace smothered Brinkman’s left-footed drive in the 50th minute.
“Their forwards are really good,” Howard said. “Any time they have the ball on their feet, as coaches we take a deep breath. A one-goal lead is not safe against that team.”
Epley gave the Aggies breathing room in the 69th minute when she headed home a beautiful cross from the left wing by Katelyn Laurente.
Jessica Anaya had nine saves to help keep Gorman in the match.
“Every year we have four goals: Make the playoffs, win our division, win region and win state,” Howard said. “So this is a big deal. It’s hard to do those first three.”
Chynna Zurflueh couldn’t have grabbed a soccer ball and tossed it off the goal post any better.
With her team down an early goal and in need of momentum, the Coronado junior moved in on the right wing and fired a shot that kissed the left post and ricocheted into the net.
It wrestled back momentum for the Cougars, who went on for a 2-1 win over Green Valley in the Sunrise Region final.
Coronado (15-1-4) advanced to the Division I state tournament, which begins Friday in Carson City.
“It felt good coming off my foot,” Zurflueh said. “Their goalie is extremely good. I play against her all the time. In order to have a chance against her, you have to have a really solid shot. It just felt good.”
Zurflueh’s shot hit the post about 3 feet off the ground and deflected perfectly into the net to tie the match in the 19th minute.
Five minutes later, teammate Michaela Morris took a long lead pass from Abby Brown and beat the defense before poking the ball past goalkeeper Kiyana Lopez to give the Cougars the lead for good. Brown assisted on both Coronado goals.
“Our speed is a huge weapon for us,” Coronado coach Dana Neel said. “It’s not our only method of attack, but if it’s working for us, it’s what we’re going to go to.”
Green Valley (14-3-5) took the early lead on a 35-yard free kick by Jessica Messer. Coronado goalkeeper Rachel Morris appeared to mishandle the ball, which hit her in the arms before rolling into the net.
“It was really important to get the momentum back,” Zurflueh said. “We needed to get back in the game.”
Messer nearly tied the match early in the second half on a 40-yard free kick that bounced and scraped the crossbar before hopping out of play.
Green Valley had a handful of chances in the final 20 minutes, but Coronado’s Erin Heenan made three saves in a relief effort to maintain the one-goal lead.
Coronado hadn’t won a region title since the 2010 winter season.
“It feels good,” Neel said. “You plan for this the whole year, and you know you have the strongest team. It’s fun to prove it.”
Nevada’s all-time career goals leader, Sydney Sladek, came up big again for Pahrump Valley.
The senior netted the winning goal in overtime to give the Trojans a 3-2 victory over Faith Lutheran for the Division I-A Southern Region championship.
Sladek sprinted up the left side of the field, received a pass from Kristen Young in the middle and finally put it in the net minutes into overtime.
“(Young) placed it perfectly,” said Sladek, who jumped into Young’s arms in celebration afterward. “I’m ecstatic.”
Everyone in attendance, including Pahrump coach Pamela Larmouth, had a feeling who would net the game-winner.
“That’s what we were waiting for,” Larmouth said. “All we wanted to do was give her an opening. All she needs is a little crack. Sometimes she makes her own, but that’s all we were needing.”
The Trojans (17-0-2) came back twice against the Crusaders (16-5-1), who built leads of 1-0 and 2-1.
In the 21st minute, Dani Tharaladson took a pass from Kristi Chinn and kicked it to the right post to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead.
Sladek responded in the 36th minute, scoring off a pass from Ashlyn DiBlasi to tie it.
Chinn got another assist on a corner kick that set up Kendall Pori’s goal with 14 minutes left in regulation that put Faith Lutheran up 2-1.
With three minutes left in regulation, Courtney Lindsey lobbed a pass to Sladek, who was taken down by Crusaders goalkeeper Beka Lescenski in the penalty box, earning the Trojans a penalty kick.
Lindsey took the try and fired the ball inside the right post to tie the game.