Try as they might, the Shadow Ridge girls soccer team could only score in opening minutes of the half Jan. 6.
That was more than enough in the Thursday night 6A contest against Mountain Ridge thanks to the Stallions' control of possession and defense.
Sophomore forward Mia Loher scored early in the first half, and sophomore forward Jillian Young scored less than two minutes into the second half to secure a 2-0 win for Shadow Ridge (3-2 regular season, 7-4-2 overall).
"The first couple days of practice this week weren't very clean. But we cleaned it up yesterday and the girls came out to play tonight," Gray said. "I'm happy because that's one I'm not sure of with Mountain Ridge. I felt like I played well and dominated most of the time."
Following a down 2021 season with a young team, the Stallions are returning to form this year.
Shadow Ridge has scored 34 goals in its 12 games thus far, after only 12 in last year's shorter 14 game season that did not havein-season invitational tournaments.
"We have a lor of potential. We're getting close to three times as many goals as last year. We had a huge drop off of about 50 goals last year and we're back up around 30 now," Gray said. "It's been spead around pretty well. I've had about eight girls score."
Mountain Ridge (2-3, 4-5) had a couple of good chances late in each half.
An offside flag waved off a goal by Mountain Ridge senior forward Jessica Cavalari. in the 30th minute. Fellow senior forward Avery Guiel lead a couple of attacks in the final six minutes, but senior goalkeeper Sophia Flores saved her shot in the 77th inute.
"We had more opportunities in the first half, and maybe in the second half. We let in two goals, and those goals were good off the crosses. We're doing a good job or creating opportunities and connecting passes. We're just slightly unlucky at times," Mountain Ridge coach Peter Evans said.
The Mountain Lions have eight days off before resuming the season with a home game against San Luis on Jan. 14.
After a Jan. 18 home game against Mesa Skyline, it's another off week then play starts in the brutal Desert Valley Region.
"That's kind of been the story of our year. In our losses it's just not the same energy or aggression and we're getting in our heads a little bit," Evans said. "We're down a couple starters this game and that affected us a little bit. But we were late to the party."
Games against Yuma Cibola and Mesa Desert Ridge await the Stallions before Southwest Region play starts Jan. 25 at Tolleson.
Shadow Ridge will come in as the region title favorite, with Phoenix Sunnylope looking like the top contender.
"Traditionally we have a good time against those teams and we hope to do the same thing," Gray said. "I think we have a good shot. We're trying to win our fourth region championship in a row - even though we only played two teams last year."
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