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Last crusade: YC falls in state semis
PHOENIX — When the match ended, it was hard to discern the sweat from the tears. They seemed to blend together on the faces of the Yuma Catholic squad following its 2-1 overtime loss to Northwest Christian.
The No. 7 Crusaders outshot the No. 11 Shamrocks 5-4 in the penalty kick portion of overtime to advance to the championship match of the 1A/2A/3A state tournament.
In the seventh kick of the shootout Yuma Catholic's Evita Jaramillo sailed her shot just right of the frame. As the ball rolled out of bounds the Northwest Christian squad celebrated its victory and second straight berth in the state title match. It was NWC's third win of the season against YC.
The Shamrocks could do nothing but look on from midfield, tears welling in their eyes, as they walked back to their sideline.
"It's tough to put into words, to know what those kids feel," Yuma Catholic coach Jesus Quintana said through tears. "It's a difficult way to go out, they put up a great battle and they never gave up."
The Shamrocks controlled the early portion of the contest, tallying the match's first goal in the 31st minute on Morgan Frank's free kick. Frank's goal, from 26 yards out, sailed over the heads of the Northwest Christian defenders before falling into the near corner of the net.
That goal was the first allowed by the Crusaders against Yuma Catholic this season. It was also the fourth goal by Frank in the state tournament.
But she was unable to experience the same success on any of her other attempts. After scoring that goal Frank sent three free kicks just wide of the frame.
"I definitely think I was overthinking it," Frank said. "I wanted to put (the ball) on the near post and it kept going wide. On the goal I just took a deep breath and took a shot. I just put it on net."
The Crusaders answered Frank's goal in the second half. Northwest Christian's Sarah Gonzales scored on a 6-yard header off a corner kick to make the match a 1-1 tie.
After that goal, YC's attack began to stall as the players felt the momentum swing in Northwest Christian's favor. The Shamrocks finished the second half with only five shots on goal.
"They were tired and when players are tired it makes it hard to focus and make the passes we were making in the first half," Quintana said.
Though the Shamrocks were able to pick up the momentum in the two overtime periods, they were unable to convert on any of their four shots.
Yuma Catholic goalie Mary Allt showed the same determination as her teammates, deflecting each of the Crusaders' five shots in extra time.
"Yuma showed a lot of courage to come out again and do a lot better against us this game than they had the previous two games," NWC coach Robin Meelhuysen said. "When we played them before it seemed like it was a different team."
The Shamrocks had dropped their two previous matchups with the Crusaders during the regular season, 2-0 at home and 3-0 on the road. Yuma Catholic was able to use that experience to adjust its gameplan.
Part of that was shutting down NWC's leading offensive threat, Christin Thornton. Yuma Catholic's Amy Ford, who played on the back line, was able to cut off Thornton's attack and stop her from taking possession in the Shamrocks' territory.
Yuma Catholic's appearance in the state semifinal was the first in the program's history. The Shamrocks upset Florence and Fountain Hills in the first two rounds after barely qualifying for the tournament.