CASA GRANDE — Casa Grande Union and Vista Grande entered Thursday night’s girls soccer game wanting to win, but for different reasons.
The Cougars wanted to beat their crosstown rival, while the Spartans were thinking about playoff positioning.
CG Union entered the night ranked 21st and Vista Grande sat at No. 25 in the Class 4A power rankings. The Spartans pulled off the upset with a 3-2 home victory, and it was also the first time they had beaten the Cougars since coach Cedric Collins took over the program four years ago.
“This was the first time and my senior girls they really wanted this game, but to me, like I told them, I ain’t from here so I could care less about the rivalry,” Collins said. “To me, that’s another team in the way of my playoff dreams. My goal is the playoffs, not to beat them.”
Vista Grande jumped out to a 1-0 lead as Alexis Trejo scored two minutes into the game.
CG Union’s Maya Galicia answered with 28 minutes remaining in the half and Karely Lara Rodriguez punched in her 17th goal of the season to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
Vista Grande’s Trejo needed only one minute to tie the game again with her second goal.
“There’s a saying in the NBA. It’s a make-or-miss league,” Collins said. “It was a tough-fought game as I expected. Both teams were going to come out and play hard. For some reason they seem to get up for each other, and I get it, you’re playing your friends you’ve been knowing since kindergarten but like I always tell them, I played three years in the NFL; I don’t care if my brother is on the side of me, if he’s in a different uniform, he’s my enemy at that point and we can go back to being brothers when that game is over.”
The second half saw a lot of midfield play as neither team could find the back of the net.
“If we look at our statistics on Hudl we have primary possession,” CG Union coach Mike Wagner said. “We have between 56% and 66% possession on every game. We’ve got strings of passes that were three to five passes, there were 22 of those strings inside of our games. I’m interested to see what we had here because I feel like we had more possession than the other team did, and we definitely had more passing.”
The Cougars had a great opportunity with 25 minutes left as Lisbet Porras took a shot from the outer corner of the box and hit the upper crossbar as Vista Grande’s goalie, Karen Heinle, struggled to get back up following a collision on an earlier play.
Ashlyn De La Cruz gave the Spartans the go-ahead goal with 20 minutes left in, and CG Union scrambled trying to tie the score again.
Alejandra Vasquez had the Vista Grande goalie beat with her shot, but the ball continued rolling wide and missed the far post with nine minutes left, as CG Union was playing against the clock.
“There’s no reason we should have lost that game,” Wagner said. “It was more of a pride standpoint especially for these girls. Did the technically better team win today? No. They just had a few opportunities that they got in, and that’s what happened.”
While it’s difficult to understand the equation and how exactly the Arizona Interscholastic Association selects the 24 teams that make the playoffs, the one constant is that winning games is a likely path to the postseason.
The remaining schedule for both teams isn’t a walk in the park, having to face Tucson Salpointe Catholic, Tucson Catalina Foothills and Tucson Sahuaro, but the Cougars and Spartans are looking to wreak some havoc.
“Games like this, we ticked off two games last week that we should have won, and that put us in a hole,” Collins said. “We needed to win this game, and we need to win (Friday.) That’s how I’m looking at it. I’m looking at playoffs, Salpointe is my gauge, not Union.”
The Spartans will host Rio Rico on Friday, and CG Union will host Douglas on Saturday.
The Cougars were without midfield anchor Tristyn Perez, but Wagner hopes to have her back for Saturday’s game.
“They beat us 5-2 in a tournament,” Wagner said of a game against Douglas earlier this season. “If I can get Karely and Tristyn back in there, they saw this tonight, and to put it bluntly, they’re pissed, they’re upset. They’re bothered by the fact that this occurred, and they want to get off that bench and in that game, and play harder and take it away from Douglas.”