Photo and story by CHRISTIAN MORTENSEN
After a couple of early season losses, Pima Community College dropped out of the latest NJCAA Top 20 Poll, which was released Sept. 12.
The Aztecs received some votes to be included in the top 20, but it wasn’t enough to garner a national ranking.
It wasn’t all bad news for Pima, as two Aztecs won awards for their contributions to the team over the course of the young season.
Sophomore Tara Kase was recognized as NJCAA Region 1 Goalie of the Week on Sept. 11 for her three clean sheets against Scottsdale CC, GateWay CC, and Chandler-Gilbert CC. While sophomore forward Alexis Hernandez was recognized as NJCAA Region 1 Co-Player of the Week on Sept. 5, after she scored a combined four goals against Phoenix CC and Cochise College.
Pima are unbeaten in their last five matches, winning four and drawing one.
Sep. 5: No. 20 Pima CC 1, Scottsdale CC 0
On the heels of a dramatic double overtime victory against Cochise College, Pima won their second consecutive home game when they beat the Scottsdale Community College Artichokes 1-0.
It was a cagey affair from the start, as neither team could take control in the first half. Pima saw more of the ball and better chances on goal, but the teams went into halftime 0-0.
In the second half, both sides opened up, and Kase was forced into a couple of saves to keep the Artichokes off the scoreboard. Sophomore midfielder Taylor Inocencio came close to giving the Aztecs the lead in the 64th minute but saw her shot saved by the Scottsdale keeper.
With just over 10 minutes remaining, it looked as if the game was going to go to overtime yet again.
But everything changed when Pima were awarded a penalty in the 80th minute, after Hernandez was brought down in the box by a Scottsdale defender. The referee’s decision left the Artichoke head coach fuming and the Pima team and supporters relieved.
Hernandez converted the penalty to give the Aztecs the winning goal, and by doing so notched her sixth goal of the season and scored for the fourth consecutive game.
When the full-time whistle blew, Pima head coach Kendra Veliz was relieved “to push through the fatigue and be able to get the result we wanted at the end of the game.”
Sep. 7: No. 20 Pima CC 3, GateWay CC 0
The Aztecs continued their winning ways by beating the GateWay Community College Geckos, 3-0, to pick up their third consecutive victory.
Pima dominated play from the opening kickoff; continually possessing the ball in the GateWay half of the field.
The Aztecs came close to scoring an early goal on multiple occasions, but the team was kept off the scoresheet until sophomore Emily Gallagher scored in the 44th minute to give Pima a lead just before halftime.
Pima registered 17 shots on the Gateway goal in the first half, while the Geckos didn’t register any on Pima’s.
The second half was much of the same. As the Aztecs continued to dominate the ball, they found themselves with a two-goal advantage in the 59th minute, when GateWay scored an own goal. The goal came off a deflected shot from sophomore left back Bailey Pedersen, when the ball hit the foot of a Gecko defender and redirected into the back of the net.
Sophomore Jahmonique Smith erased any doubt of the outcome when she scored her second goal of the season in the 84th minute.
After the match, opening-goal-scorer Gallagher was happy with how the team performed.
“We played pretty good today,” she said. “Our passing was on point and we had an aggressive first touch, which made a big difference compared to our last games.”
Sep. 9: No. 20 Pima CC 0, Chandler-Gilbert CC 0
In their second-straight road game, the Aztecs were held to a scoreless draw by Chandler-Gilbert CC.
It was an even match from the start, as two of the heavyweights of NJCAA Region 1 were forced to settle with only a share of the spoils; one point each for a draw.
Goalkeeper Kase was a standout performer for Pima as she made seven saves to keep the Coyotes off the scoreboard. The Aztecs had seven shots on goal compared to eight from Chandler-Gilbert.
With the draw, Pima dropped to 4-2-1 on the season.
Sep. 12: Pima CC 14, Glendale CC 1
In their eighth match of the season, the Aztecs traveled up to Phoenix for the third consecutive game. This time the team took on the Glendale Community College Gauchos, where the Aztecs came away from the match as victors, winning 14-1.
Pima dominated play from the start and were in the lead in the third minute when freshman Paola Rueda-Flores scored her second goal of the season. The Aztecs never looked back from there, and the team scored an astounding nine more goals in the first half.
It was 10-0 at halftime.
The Aztecs added four more goals in the second half to complete the 14-1 blowout.
With the win, Pima improved to 5-2-1 and 4-0-1 in its last five games.
Sept. 21: vs Arizona Western College 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 23: at Paradise Valley CC, noon.
Sept. 26: vs South Mountain CC, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 30: vs Phoenix College 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 3: at Cochise College 2 p.m.