Clash of the Titans: Chino Valley can’t keep pace with Northland Prep
CHINO VALLEY — In a potential preview of the girls soccer state championship, fierce rivals Chino Valley and Northland Prep locked horns on Thursday. And in dramatic fashion, it was the Spartans who upended the Cougars 5-3 in overtime to remain as the only unbeaten team in 2A.
2A fall girls soccer, which is an 11-team conference, has historically been a two-horse race between perennial powerhouses Chino Valley and Northland Prep. This season has maintained the status quo as the Cougars and Spartans were a respective 10-0 and 9-0 heading into Thursday’s region match-up.
Chino Valley At Northland Prep Girls Soccer
And just as expected, spectators were given an explosive contest which saw two formidable teams trying to assert dominance over the other. However, the Spartans managed to get the jump on the Cougars by scoring in the opening moments of the game.
Chino Valley giving up that early goal in the first half ultimately served as a microcosm for the entire match. The Spartans caught the Cougars sleeping on multiple occasions, especially when they immediately scored following both overtime kickoffs.
“We play club with these girls. We know off their set plays that their passes are spot on. They’re faster than any team we’ve seen all season long and they just caught us standing on our heels,” said Chino Valley head coach Allen Foster. “We knew coming in and we even practiced that, and we still got bit in the butt by it.”
Momentum shifted frequently throughout the match but it was always an uphill battle for Chino Valley, a first for them this season. The Cougars struggled to keep pace with the Spartans’ speed and in the first half alone, they gave up just as many goals (2) as they did in their previous 10 games.
Despite trailing 2-0 in that first half, London Wigen and Maddie Foster were big reasons why Chino Valley remained within striking distance. Maddie Foster’s quickness and creativity caused many problems for the NPA defense while Wigen bombed a shot over the goalkeeper from about 35 yards out.
With the score 2-1 at the half, there was definitely a feeling in the air that the Cougars were primed for a comeback, perhaps because of a missed penalty by Northland Prep’s Ellie Karren. And for most of the second half, it surly seemed that way as Chino Valley went on the offensive.
However, Northland Prep found some daylight when Mia Blair — who ran circles around the Chino Valley defense the entire game — received a nifty through ball inside the box. The junior midfielder then promptly slotted a left-foot shot under goalkeeper Kacey Matthews to give her team a 3-1 lead.
A few minutes later, Maddie Foster answered back when she capitalized off a miscommunication between the Northland Prep defense and the keeper. This second goal lit a spark for the Cougars and soon after, Wigen was at it again, curling a shot into the upper 90 from about 30-yards to level the score and cap off a wild five-minute sequence.
In overtime, the Cougars’ preparedness issues came back to haunt them as the Spartans bagged their fourth goal straight from the kickoff. In the second half of overtime, the Spartans did it once more by taking a 5-3 lead during their first possession.
Northland Prep eventually closed out the game to reign supreme over the rest of the 2A Conference, at least for the time being. While he admitted the Spartans were the better team this game, Allen Foster is glad to have analyzed their game just in case they meet again in the state championship.
“We’ve seen all the teams in the state and us and Northland Prep are heads and shoulders above everybody else … If this was a bet, I’d say this a preview of the state championship” Allen Foster said. “We wanted to see this game. I think when you’re the lesser team, I think it’s better to see a good team like Northland Prep … And right now, we might be the lesser team, not because of heart or because of effort, but they do a great job of playing year-round and you can see it in their touch. As long as we peak at the right time, I think we’ll be alright.
Chino Valley (10-1, 1-1 Central) will travel to Page (1-8, 0-1 Central) to take on the Sand Devils in a Central Region match on Tuesday, Oct. 1.
Aaron Valdez is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier of Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter at @Valaaron_94. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2031.