February 15, 2006 - It was going to take more than the bewitching powers of the full moon overhead to derail the speeding bullet train that is Catalina Foothills High School's girls soccer team.
The Falcons' quest to repeat as state champs culminated Feb. 11 at Arizona State Soccer Stadium in Tempe against Phoenix Pinnacle High School in the Class 4A state finals. After surviving an uncharacteristic first half - one marred by a lack of capitalization rather than a lunar imbalance - the ladies of Foothills had their championship.
In true Falcon form, Foothills (26-0) recovered from a minor first half hiccup to dominate Pinnacle with a 4-0 win.
"Probably one of the most nerve wracking games I've ever been in," said senior defender Jenna Merideth.
The Pioneers were able to hold the high scoring Falcons off the board in the first half, putting pressure on Merideth and the Foothills' defense. If it weren't for a diving save by goaltender Jessica Walton, the Falcons would have trailed for the first time all tournament.
At halftime, Foothills' head coach Charlie Kendrick had one question for his well-balanced team.
"I just asked them if they were state champions or not," said Kendrick, "and basically said 'If you are, you've got to go out there and play like it in the second half.'"
The Falcons responded by turning back into the explosive team that outscored opponents 26-0 in four state playoff games.
In the 55th minute, Pinnacle could no longer keep Foothills off the scoreboard.
Sam Monahan, a junior forward, scored the first goal with a rebound shot after sophomore forward Tamra Jones hit the post with a shot. Less than a minute later, junior mid-fielder Stephanie McCurry added another score on a penalty kick and the Falcons had two easy goals less than six minutes into the second half.
Shortly thereafter, junior Katie McDermott blasted home a goal at point blank range to put the Falcons up by three. Merideth added the final Foothills goal sliding one through in the 63rd minute.
Last year, Foothills swept through the playoffs, outscoring opponents 17-1. The lone goal surrendered came in an 8-1 drubbing of Flagstaff High School in the championship game. This year, four teams - Willow Canyon High School 8-0, Ironwood Ridge High School 10-0, Sahuaro High School 4-0 and Pinnacle all failed to find the back of the net against the Falcons.
Going undefeated all season wasn't enough for the Falcons.
"It was kind of in the back of our minds because last year we got scored on in the finals," said sophomore LeeAnn Felder about yielding a goal to Flagstaff last season.
"A lot of different kids can contribute to the team and I think that was a key to our success all year long," said Kendrick.
Although she didn't score, Tamra James is the one who got the Falcons going when they needed a pick up in the second half, said Kendrick.
For many of the girls, the celebration will be short-lived before they are back on the soccer pitch. Club season starts Tuesday with practices, while other programs will travel right back to the Phoenix metro area for a tournament.
When the high school soccer season returns next season, the Falcons should be just as strong, and a three-peat isn't out of the question. Kendrick will lose just six of his 23 players to graduation.
Going out as champions are seniors Stephanie Streeter, Katie Kaufman, Michele Robbins, Mara Weisband and Andrea Crowe, who also won a cross country state title in the fall.
"This is how I wanted to go out in my last high school sporting event that I'm ever going to play in," said Crowe. "It's a great way to go out, bittersweet, but a great way to go out."
Christopher Wuensch is a staff writer covering sports. He can be reached at 797-4384 ext. 112 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.