A Desert Mountain High School midfielder played a ball just out the reach of forward Haley Hart, who gave a brief chase as the seconds ticked away on her season.
When the buzzer sounded to end the Wolves' 1-0 girls soccer state quarterfinal road loss to Phoenix Xavier, Hart placed her hands on top of her head, frustrated by the umpteenth Desert Mountain pass played just out of the reach of the Wolves' forwards.
"We were missing by a hair here or a half a step here or the ball would hit a little bounce unexpectedly," Desert Mountain coach Gene Lescalette said. "It was one of those nights."
Several reasons for Desert Mountain's lack of touch were offered.
Jittery young players — Desert Mountain's roster included only two seniors — overly eager to get the ball forward in such a big game.
Over-compensation for a field hardened by cold weather.
But the best reason was a stingy Xavier defense that recorded its 14th shutout of the season and that has not allowed a goal to Desert Mountain in the four years since the Wolves joined the 5A girls soccer elite.
Desert Mountain failed to produce quality chances, except on a handful of free kicks. Xavier goalkeeper Katie Cagle made just four stops in the shutout.
"In four years, they've never scored a goal on us," Xavier assistant coach Dave Hedrick said. "This defense is tough. (Desert Mountain) had some opportunities but they were all on set pieces. Nothing came in the flow of play, and that's just a credit to our defense."
Xavier has been the bane of the prep careers of Desert Mountain seniors Molly Eckert and Erin Hawkes.
The Gators defeated Eckert and Hawkes in the state championship game when they were freshman, and last season, Xavier blew them out in a lopsided quarterfinal game at Xavier.
"I can't count how many seasons have ended on this field," Hawkes said, the exaggeration a result of sheer frustration.
After dragging Xavier into overtime early this season before losing 2-0, Desert Mountain had to think this was its year.
Their chances appeared grim at 9:03 of the first half when Xavier's Heidi Raetz scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal off a corner kick by Sarah Mazur.
Desert Mountain goalie Liz Herber punched Mazur's kick out of the box, but Xavier's Katie West fired the ball back on goal. Raetz redirected the shot to give Xavier a 1-0 lead.
"A lucky bounce. She just got her left leg on it," Eckert said. "It's something you wish you could have stopped but you can’t really do anything about it."
Added Lescalette: "Maybe we could've cleared it, maybe someone should've stepped in front, but I don't know."