5A-I boys soccer: OT goal gives Aztecs title - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

5A-I boys soccer: OT goal gives Aztecs title

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Posted: Saturday, February 13, 2010 10:59 pm | Updated: 3:22 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

It was one of the best chances by either team all night, and, the way this final championship match of the season played out, it could have been the last.

After knocking on the door several times, Corona del Sol converted what had been a 12-month mission, as the dread-locked Daniel Van Vleet nailed the night's only goal into the upper reaches of the net for a 1-0 overtime victory against surging Hamilton on Saturday night for the 5A Division I boys soccer state championship at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert.

It was Corona del Sol's first title since 1994, the only other time the Aztecs had played this far in school history.

It was also sweet reward for a team that was eliminated as the No. 1 seed a year ago in the first round of the playoffs, the first time that's happened in any sport since the current power-point system was installed six years ago. Ever since, the No. 5 Aztecs played as if they received the message loud and clear.

"I don't think we realized how good we were," Van Vleet said. "That's the difference this year. We knew we could win state."

A focused bunch throughout the regular season and tournament - several Aztecs played H-O-R-S-E around one of the garbage cans while waiting for the 5A-I girls title match to end - the loosey-goosey style this season gave way to an emotional speech from the Aztecs seniors before the game.

"From day one we said a team either expects to be here or is happy to be here, and now it's a matter of taking care of business," Aztecs coach Dan Salas said. "We never got off course."

After kickoff, however, these two teams hadn't faced each other, but it quickly became clear they were both championship caliber as they traded scoring chances, shoves, slides and diving saves with one another.

With yellow cards being handed out quickly in the latter stages, the Aztecs began to assert themselves offensively in the final 20 minutes of regulation and both overtimes, but a couple of big saves by Huskies goalie J.D. Zehring temporarily saved the season.

Hamilton was also miffed when Tanner Clay was tackled from behind and Corona was only given a yellow card. Hamilton had a free kick from just outside the goalie box but it was blocked and cleared by a swarming Aztecs defense.

In the final minute of the first overtime, a midfield turnover and clearing attempt found Van Vleet, who pushed the ball across the middle of Campo Verde's Fieldturf and fired it in from 15 yards out.

"It happened so fast, when you see it you have to take it," Van Vleet said. "Fortunately it worked out."

Hamilton couldn't get a good chance in the second overtime as Corona kept possession.

The Huskies' first trip to a state championship match ended in misery and overflowed emotions, but the program has quickly ascended from the bottom these past three years. Nine underclassmen who saw the field on Saturday, the plan first enforced by this year's talented senior class is to stick around.

"They did all they could do and our boys matched their fight," Huskies coach Nick Markette said. "They're warriors, and it starts with the seniors who took this program where it's never been. This was their team; they started warmups and practices every day.

"We're by no means done. This program is here to stay."  

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