Perry High girls soccer rebuilds for another run at crown - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Perry High girls soccer rebuilds for another run at crown

February 19th, 2019 development
Perry High girls soccer rebuilds for another run at crown

By Eric Newman

Santan Sun News Staff Writer


A wholesale renovation seemed imminent when the Perry High girls soccer team walked off the field following a 1-0 loss to Xavier Prep in the 6A state final last February.

The Pumas graduated nine seniors, most of them starters, from one of the state’s best teams.

For this season, Perry was faced with moving several girls from the bench and the junior varsity without a minute of varsity experience into starting roles. AIA rankings had the Pumas near the top but nobody was sure how they would begin the year.

Confidence in the newcomers was justified. Through 20 games, the Pumas were 17-0-3 and ranked seventh in the U.S. by MaxPreps, surprising even coach John Roberts.

“I thought we’d struggle a little bit because a lot of the girls aren’t familiar with the speed and aggressiveness of play, but there were some really good players coming up,” Roberts said. “They’ve adapted pretty well and have some good chemistry.”

Perry rode that to a 4-1 victory over Red Mountain to open the season on Nov. 30.

The Mountain Lions’ goal would prove to be the only score the Pumas allowed for several months. With two games remaining in the regular season, Perry had not allowed another goal.

“We didn’t realize how long it had been until the coaches told us it had been over 18 game hours since we’d been scored on,” said senior defender Annika Sandstedt.

Although Perry was winning games it was not scoring at the same clip to which it was accustomed in years past.

“In the past, I always knew where people like (2018 forward) Remmi (Deutsch) would be. And now I’m looking and trying to figure out a whole set of girls and what kind of runs they would be making at first, so we had to work that out,” said senior midfielder Shaylynn Uyeshiro.

Winter-break practices appeared to help, as the Pumas scored a combined 31 goals in their first two games of 2019, including a 21-0 drubbing of Tolleson on Jan. 11.

The lopsided victories reaffirmed that the team could score, even the bench players who played at the end of the two blowouts.

“It showed that even the second string is just as strong as the first. The depth is crazy and there’s always lower girls who are challenging for starting spots. So it keeps everybody motivated,” said sophomore goalkeeper Jazmyn Brass.

In their next four games, though, the Pumas scored just six combined goals.

As usual, the defense held up but Perry could not find the net against section rivals Hamilton and Basha, resulting in 0-0 ties in two of three games. The Pumas could see either or both of those teams again in the playoffs.

Rather than panic with a few games left before the playoffs, Roberts sees it as a learning opportunity for a still-maturing team.

“We’re on a bit of a downslide here, which is good because we need to be peaking in the next few weeks. We know we can get better,” Roberts said.

Another motivation for Perry is the MaxPreps National High School Girls Soccer Rankings. It was ranked atop the list in November, along with several other schools around the country recording their own undefeated seasons.

Sandstedt said the players keep their national ranking in the back of their minds. They understand that their attention must remain on what it can control: competing for a state title to cap an unlikely season.

“Our main goal is to win the state championship. Those rankings don’t matter at the end,” Sandstedt said. “As nice as it would be to get that recognition, we know it doesn’t mean an underdog can’t come in and win, or that we’re automatically going to be champions. We have to focus on that first.”

Perry was to play Kofa in its final regular-season game on Feb. 1.