Seton Catholic knew it had a tall order in stopping a 49-goal scorer for No. 1 seed Tucson Palo Verde.
And for the first 55 minutes of the Sentinels' Division III girls semifinal match on Wednesday, it was even. But when prolific scorer Jasmine Stokes ended up one-on-one against Seton goalkeeper Theresa Hoffman, it seemed inevitable.
Although No. 4-seeded Seton (14-2) did a good job on Stokes much of the night, she got behind the defense off a long ball for the only goal in Palo Verde's 1-0 win Wednesday night at Arcadia High School.
"Unfortunately it went over our head and she tucked it away and rightfully so," Seton coach Bianca Jauregui said. "She beat us fair and square on that ball."
Palo Verde (22-2-1) faces Goodyear Estrella Foothills at 5 p.m. on Friday at Campo Verde High School in its first state title match appearance in five years. Estrella Foothills beat Buckeye Verrado 2-1 in the first semifinal of the night.
The decisive play in Seton's loss began with Palo Verde's Darian Williams' free kick deep in the Titans' end. She sent it up field, Cassie Mousaw got her head on the ball and Stokes ended up one-on-one against Hoffman from about 10 yards out.
"We wanted to keep an eye on her," Jauregui said. "We knew she was good. So we wanted to try and keep the ball away from her as much as we could. That worked out well for us."
The Titans had dominated possession in the first half and got a couple of good chances but either were wide or were handled by Hoffman.
"I'm proud of us, we played really well," a surprisingly upbeat Reggie Van Devender said. "We left our hearts on the field and had nothing to lose."
Seton didn't get a lot of pressure on Palo Verde's defense. The Titans haven't allowed a goal in 12 games and have won 19 matches in a row.
But Van Devender, a freshman phenom in the making with superior dribbling skills and scored 27 goals during theseason, got behind the Titans defense on a couple of occasions, but couldn't get off good shots.
"Hopefully we could just play our game, if I got the ball hopefully dribble a little," she said. "Defense wins championships and we were close."
Palo Verde lost in the quarterfinals the last two seasons and was the 4A-II runner up in 2007.
"We had our chances," Jauregui said. "Nobody can say we didn't have our chances and we did. They tucked theirs away and we didn't. This could have been a championship game."