The Liberty High School girls soccer team didn’t make it easy for the defending state champion Chaparral High School Firebirds, but in the end, Chaparral’s past experience paid off.
Chaparral defender Madison Liebman broke a 1–1 tie with an off-balance goal from the right side of the box eight minutes into overtime to give the Firebirds the quarterfinal win to advance them to the semifinals. The win came Saturday, Feb. 2 at Chaparral High School.
Liebman said once she scored the goal with about 12 minutes left in overtime, she had a lot of trust her team could keep the lead she had just given it.
“I know my team and I know how they play,” she said after the match. “I know we can all come together and play strong.”
This wasn’t Chaparral’s first close game this season. This was the fifth time this season the Firebirds won or lost a game by a goal.
Liberty Head Coach Kyle Pooler said he thought his team played as good as it could but in the end, Chaparral’s experience — including winning last year’s state championship — was the difference-maker.
Liebman agreed and said the entire team has played in a close game and has felt the pressure.
“It just takes that one play or one player to really get the whole team together and make a result out of it,” she said.
Chaparral struck first with defender Hannah Koopal heading in a corner kick in the 22nd minute that bounced around in the box before she got a hold of it.
Liberty’s defense held tough into the second half where forward Maya Lorenzana booted in a goal past numerous Chaparral defenders in the 54th minute to level the score.
There were many opportunities for the Firebirds to score but Liberty goalkeeper Taylor Poland held strong throughout many of Chaparral’s offensive attacks.
Chaparral Head Coach Robyn Carlson said Poland’s play was a big factor into the Firebirds’ high-octane offense — which averages almost six goals per match — slowing down.
“She made some good saves,” Coach Carlson said after the match. “She came out when she needed to because I though (our) girls were on them.”
Another factor, Coach Carlson said, was the heat because her team was not used to playing during the day. The temperature reached into the upper 70s in Scottsdale, according to accuweather.com.
The way Chaparral overcame this and other challenges, Coach Carlson said, is what led to the Firebirds getting the win.
“They kept the patience to continue to play their game, work the ball and play together,” she said. “I thought the girls really worked through the heat and had that second lift of intensity and we were able to put it away.”
With the quarterfinal win, the Firebirds advance to take on No. 2 Ironwood Ridge High School at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8. All semifinals and finals will be at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert.
Around the horn
No. 4 Arcadia 2, No. 12 Queen Creek 1 — The Arcadia Titans defeated the Queen Creek Bulldogs to advance to the semifinals for the second consecutive year. The Titans will get a rematch against Notre Dame Prep, which it knocked out of the playoffs last year in the semifinals.
No. 1 Notre Dame Prep 2, No. 8 Campo Verde 1 — NDP scored in overtime to break a 1–1 and send the Saints into the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year. The Saints had a chance a year ago to win their third consecutive state title but lost in the semifinals against Arcadia. They will look to avenge that loss this year with a rematch of last year’s semifinals.