Special to West Valley Preps
Centennial pushed host Willow Canyon to the brink in Wednesday’s 5A girls soccer playoff rematch for these region rivals.
But No. 7 Willow Canyon (12-5-3) set of striker Allison Veloz for all four goals of its 4-2 overtime win against No. 10 Centennial (12-6-2).
Just 19 days ago Willow Canyon and Centennial went up against each other during the regular season. The Wildcats defeated the Coyotes 3-1 and the first round game tonight at Willow Canyon was Centennial’s shot at redemption.
But Willow Canyon was on the board first after a direct kick by Centennial senior Ari Jimenez. She played the ball in, but the clearance ended up with Allison Veloz who took the ball close to 60 yards back the other way.
She beat three Coyote defenders before finding the back of the net and the 1-0 lead. Willow Canyon head coach Kendra Melbye said after her team went up a goal the team seemed to coast and no longer press.
Centennial’s Steffanie Misulich had a good look at the goal in the 17th minute, but pushed it up and over the crossbar. One minute later, Jimenez ripped a shot that missed just wide of the goal.
The Coyotes continued to pound at the Wildcats goal and got one after Petey Banuelos connected with Jayden Anderson on a diagonal run to tie the game 1-1.
“We talked about the speed and ball movement in the first 15 minutes of the first half and how we stopped doing that after we scored,” Melbye said. “We pretty much said they want this game right now and we are just going through the motions.”
With one minute left in the half, Anderson sent a ball across the front of the goal, but Banuelos was unable to get a foot on it.
Centennial came out aggressive in the second half, putting together impressive combination play. Banuelos sent Anderson on a run up the sideline, who played the ball across to Jimenez, who hit the ball just over the cross bar.
Veloz earned her second goal much like her first, playing the ball with pace on the ground, beating Centennial defenders who were indecisive about stepping to the ball. The Wildcats went ahead 2-1 with 18 minutes left in regulation.
“After the first two goals we made sure position wise we had people in position to slow her (Veloz) down,” Centennial head coach Steve Ybarra said. “And we did that. Once that adjustment was made the whole second half she was a non factor.”
The Coyotes had just 15 minutes left to keep their season alive. Jimenez cleared a ball to the Wildcats defensive third that Anderson tracked down using her undeniable speed.
She got in behind Julia Stangler on defense and challenged goal keeper Akela Patterson of the Wildcats on a 50-50 ball. She won the ball and put the equalizer away, 2-2, sending the game into overtime.
“Her hustle, her work ethic and her will to win was all evident in that second goal,” Coach Ybarra said about Anderson. “When that ball got played I knew she would get so close, but the way she just kept trucking and trucking and then to go against the goalie on a 50-50 is crazy and shows courage and that’s what I told my team.”
He said a goalie can do anything going at a field player and not get a penalty, but she challenged it anyway and went through it and she won it and that’s indicative of her will to win today.
“She has the ability to be a game changer every time she plays,” Ybarra said.
Heading into overtime Melbye told her team it was their home game and their fans cheering for a win and they either need to pick it up and start playing to their potential or the chances of them moving on were not good.
But Willow Canyon killed any momentum Centennial had heading into overtime, when Veloz scored again from 20 yards out near the sideline to go ahead 3-2.
“When overtime hit and they hit that early goal, our momentum was lost and we had a chance to regain it on the penalty kick (in the 91st minute),” Ybarra said. “It was close, but not enough.”
Veloz put the game away in the 88th minute after she chased down her own shot that was deflected and found the back of the net, putting them up 4-2.
Melbye said Veloz is incredibly fast and her touch on the ball was on last night.
“But hands down her speed could not be matched and she is a special player with great talent and work ethic,” she said. “She always battles and always plays at a high level.”
Willow Canyon advances to the semi-finals and will travel to Notre Dame Prep Saturday at 2 p.m. Melbye said her team must improve before then and be ready to play at 100-percent, battling and playing the entire game.
“A lot of it will come down to heart and desire,” she said. “We played them tough last time and lost 1-0. They’re a great team, but if we play to our potential we can play with them and challenge them for a victory.