The Dysart Demons were perfect all season on their home pitch, but the Mesquite Wildcats changed that in a hurry. Less than four minutes to be exact.
Squaring off in a 4A play-in game Thursday in Surprise with a slot in the state tournament going to the winner and softball season to the loser, Mesquite -- making the hour-long drive from Gilbert as the No. 18 seed -- found the back of the net at the first half’s 36:42 mark. It was enough to set the tone for a 5-2 victory that sent the Wildcats to the 16-team tournament and ended 15-seed Dysart’s season.
The Demons had run the table at home during the regular season, going 5-0 on campus by outscoring their opponents by a whopping 31-1 margin.
This time, however, Mesquite, which had lost two of three to close the regular season including an 8-0 loss to Arcadia in the finale just three days earlier, got loose for two goals in the match’s first nine minutes, 40 seconds.
In between the quick two, Dysart senior forward and team co-captain Erika Arellano found the net to ignite the crowd, but the Demons would spend most of the chilly winter playoff night playing from behind.
“We haven’t really played with a full squad all season, and the last few games we finally had our full squad. Unfortunately it took a little too long to figure out,” Dysart head coach Ashley Becko said. “I think it was more just under the pressure of we’re back in playoffs again and feeling frustration. You’re getting fluttered and doing all that stuff and getting flustered.”
The Demons would cash in another opportunity just 15 seconds before halftime.
The pretty sequence started on a Ajalee Blackman throw-in to Arellano, who centered the ball to freshman Kiara Sanchez who put it in the net.
Dysart trimmed the lead to 5-2 by that point where it would stay until halftime and, ultimately, for the duration of the match.
The Demons did create more opportunities after the break, and even saw a Sanchez shot attempt doink off the crossbar, but Mesquite limited the chances. The Wildcats strategically burned up clock time to control the pace and close out the playoff.
“They just played so much better in that second half,” Becko said of her club. “It sucks when it comes too late for it. We knew we were the better team. We had a couple missed opportunities right in the beginning.”
Dysart (8-5 overall) loses only four seniors off this year’s squad.