By CHRISTIAN MORTENSEN
The Pima Community College women’s soccer team’s season came to an end Oct. 26 after a heartbreaking loss to Arizona Western Community College 4-3 in the NJCAA Region 1 Tournament Semifinal. The Aztecs finished with an overall record of 15-5-1.
Oct. 26: No. 20 PCC 3, Arizona Western CC 4
In the NJCAA Region 1 Tournament semifinal and in a rematch of the regular-season finale, Pima again faced Arizona Western CC, where the Aztecs lost 4-3 at Kino in double overtime.
The Aztecs got off to a quick start in the semifinal and had the lead in the 11th minute after Alexis Hernandez finished off an incredible team goal to open the scoring. The goal came after a backheel from sophomore Taylor Inocencio.
She scored again 10 minutes later, this time off an assist from sophomore Aspen Kinzie, to give Pima a commanding 2-0 lead. Arizona Western wouldn’t quit, however, and was able to grab a goal just before halftime, and the teams went into the break at 2-1.
It was a good start in the second half as well for Pima. And when Hernandez scored again in the 55th minute to secure her hat trick, as well as to restore the Aztec’s two-goal lead, it seemed the Aztecs would be going to the regional final.
Arizona Western, however, had other plans.
After going down two goals once again, the Matadors scored off a corner kick in the 67th minute to make it 3-2, and the game became even more intense with play on both sides becoming extremely physical.
Pima did well to handle the pressure at first, but in the 78th minute, Arizona Western scored again, to tie the game at 3-3.
The Aztecs regrouped and came incredibly close to scoring in the 85th minute. This time, Hernandez was denied by a save from the Arizona Western goalie. The teams then went into overtime still tied.
With the regional final awaiting, the teams played out a scoreless first overtime period and were forced to play another 10-minute golden goal period, with penalty kicks awaiting if neither team could score again. Arizona Western scored in the 119th minute, with under a minute of gameplay left before penalties, to win the game 4-3.
After the match, a morose Pima head coach Kendra Veliz was frustrated at the result and yet proud of her team.
“This is just a heartbreaking loss, especially considering we were leading 3-1. To give up that lead, it’s just heartbreaking,” Veliz said. “But with that being said, this group worked very hard this season to get to this point. I’m very proud of them as a team and of what we accomplished this year.”
Oct. 19: PCC 1, Arizona Western CC 0
In their regular season finale, the Aztecs beat Arizona Western 1-0 in Yuma to avenge their 3-1 loss to the Matadors at Kino earlier this year, as well as to claim second place overall in the region.
The match lived up to the hype it generated, as Pima rode a lone goal from Jahmonique Smith in the 32nd minute as well as a great second-half performance from keeper Tara Kase to claim the 1-0 victory.
With the win, Pima finished the regular season at 15-4-1. They also ended the regular season on a seven-game winning streak.
After the match, head coach Veliz was happy with how her team finished.
“Finishing with a win and a shutout on the road to claim the No. 2 seed, that is a fantastic way to end the regular season,” she said.
Oct. 17: Pima CC 3, Mesa CC 0
Playing on the road after three straight matches at Kino, Pima continued its run of good form when they beat Mesa Community College 3-0 to sweep the season series between the schools.
It was the Aztecs’ sixth win in a row.
Pima got on the board in the 17th minute, when leading goal scorer Alexis Hernandez found the back of the net after an assist from freshman Kylee Martin.
Freshman Anna Verdugo scored in the 72nd minute to make it 2-0 after close to an hour of goal-less play between the sides. An own goal from Mesa six minutes later sealed the result for Pima at 3-0.
With the win, Pima improved to 14-4-1 on the season and set up a massive game in the regular season finale at Arizona Western, with second place overall in the region on the line.