For the second time in two weeks, the Camp Verde High School girls soccer team hosted the No. 1 team in Conference 2A at that moment.
This time it was on senior night, Thursday, Oct. 12, against Northland Preparatory Academy in another Central Region contest. The Cowboys fell 3-1.
“I feel like we competed with them really well in the first half,” Cowboys assistant coach Maddy Reay said. “We matched up really well, we just weren’t able to carry that the whole 80 minutes but I feel like we can get to that point.”
Despite the result, Reay and the team were satisfied with the result. Last time the two teams faced off, the Spartans ran away with an 8-0 victory.
Despite the scoreline, the shorthanded Cowboys [4-4, 2-3] were competitive for most of the game. They gave up the third goal with 11 seconds remaining.
“We’re just going to tell them ‘Look at what you guys can do when you play as a team and execute well.’ We can compete with the No. 1 team, we just have to do that consistently, which we’re struggling with right now,” Reay said.
Three Cowboys seniors were honored during halftime: Alden Teeters, Alex Schaeffer and Irlanda Lopez.
“It’s really sad actually, I grew up playing with most of these girls.Four years is a long time, so it’s just really emotional,” Lopez said. “I’m sad but I’m happy to move on with my future. Of course I’ll miss them, they’re my family.”
Each team’s first goal came within the first five minutes. First it was Northland Prep who got on the board.
Just under three minutes in, Spartans freshman midfielder Kiara Hovis received the ball on the left side just outside the penalty box and cut back into the middle. Hovis finished off the play with a shot fired low and to Cowboys junior goalkeeper Brina Church’s left, tucking it nearly perfectly in the corner.
Fifty seconds later, Camp Verde junior forward Tyra Smith was carrying down the right side. Upon reaching the edge of the box, Smith struck a high-arcing, right-footed shot that seemed to have so much hang time it gave the spectators looking at their phones a chance to look up as it dropped into the far corner.
From then on, however, it was Northland Prep who dominated possession. Skillful turns and dribbles combined with intricate passing kept the Cowboys midfield and defense behind the ball for the majority of the game.
Runners found space between defenders for through balls, forcing either a save from Church or a block from a defender, while many sailed high or wide. The Spartans had eight corners in the first half.
The visitors’ second goal came 10 minutes after Smith’s. Northland Prep junior midfielder Emma Blair squared up with Camp Verde sophomore sweeper Tanna Decker and played a pass to herself into the 18-yard box.
Blair gained the endline and sent the ball across the face of goal, tapped in one time by freshman forward Ellie Karren.
In the second half, the Cowboys forward players were asked to help back more in defense, and to overall be more aggressive with the ball, which they did. However they struggled to create chances on the other end. Injuries to five starters made things even tougher.
Schaeffer injured her ankle 13 minutes into the second half. Smith departed in the later stages with an ankle, while Teeters played limited first half minutes and did not appear in the second. Two other Cowboys sat out due to injury.
“We told them we don’t want them to just be easily pushed off the ball, to be aggressive on the ball,” Reay said. “Injuries have plagued us. Having Alex [Schaeffer] out was huge thing for us. Having Emily [Orellana] out definitely affects us, but the younger girls are stepping up.”
The best chance came almost 15 minutes in. Junior forward Lupe Orta had a long diagonal ball played into space in front of her, but Spartans freshman goalkeeper Payten Schmidt won the footrace to collect.
Northland Prep continued to put the pressure on, eventually grabbing its third. Hovis sent in a ball from the left with pace, and Karren got on the end of it at the near post, deflecting it off the bar and in.
Camp Verde played on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at Page High School, but results were unavailable at press time. Its final game of the regular season is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, at Chino Valley.