Destefano, defense carry Perry to title match - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Destefano, defense carry Perry to title match

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Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2014 7:37 pm | Updated: 12:27 am, Fri Feb 14, 2014.

If you can't be the No. 2 seed, beat the No. 2 seed.

So Perry did, and a girls soccer program which entered the season with little fanfare and a new coach will play for the trophy in Saturday afternoon's season finale.

The Pumas quietly felt they should have been the No. 2 seed in this tournament instead of No. 3, but seeding  officially became irrelevant after senior captain Briana Destefano's late goal led to a 1-0 victory over No. 2 Anthem Boulder Creek in the Division I semifinals on Thursday at Campo Verde H.S.

The girls soccer team joins the baseball team (2011) as the school's programs to reach championship games, but can be the first to win it all. The Pumas (14-5-2) will play either No. 1 Pinnacle on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Campo Verde H.S. It's a rematch of this season's Arizona Soccer Showcase tournament meeting as well as last year's quarterfinals matchup, both won by Pinnacle.

With its 2-0 win over No. 4 Xavier on Thursday, the Pioneers (19-3-3) have allowed two goals since New Year's.

"There are not enough great words to say or show how proud I am of them," Perry's first-year coach Jason Dunn said.

Chances were few and far between, and a defense led by Emily Romer and Makenna Dunn scrambled a few extra times to help contain Boulder Creek's Natalie Stephens, a talented forward headed to play at Stanford next fall. But it was the fourth significant opportunity in the match which counted most.

It began with Kambree Meskill keeping possession in the midfield with nimble football before she sent the ball across the field to Gina Bracamonte, who made a nifty cut inside with the ball and sent a picturesque pass to Destefano down the left side and into the goalie box.

She cut toward the center and fired away from 15 yards away with 7:14 left in regulation.

"We've worked so hard and I'm so proud of everyone from our goalkeeper on down," Destefano said. "… I knew Gina would get it to me. It was like we work on in practice. You have to make sure you finish when thos chances come.

"I was the happiest girl in the world."

The rest was about a defense which wobbled a few times, but kept the Boulder Creek side of the scoreboard clean. A lineup full of sophomores and juniors allowed a couple of Stephens' shots to become dangerous early in the second half, but no harm, no foul for the Pumas after Stephen scored four goals in the quarterfinals win over Hamilton.

A season without any preseason ranking began 2-5-2 - including a winless Arizona Soccer Showcase tournaments - under its new coach, but sprung back to life when 2014 arrived.

With a balanced, everyone-takea-a-turn mentality offensively and Carly Sandstedt (five saves) in back, the Pumas have won 12 consecutive matches.

"This shows we deserve to be here," Destefano said.

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]