SAN TAN VALLEY — Dean Sale is in his second season coaching the Poston Butte girls soccer team, and this was also the second consecutive season the Broncos hosted a play-in game for the playoffs.

Poston Butte defeated Glendale Cactus 3-2 in comeback fashion Thursday to advance to the first round of the class 4A state tournament for a second straight year.

“We have a tough midfield,” Sale said. “These girls haven’t been together, so that’s what I’m most excited about is getting everybody back. I needed to get them on the field and work the rust out.”

Sale said the whole team had not been together since Christmas break, with some players out due to injury, sickness or other obligations.

Last year’s playoff appearance was almost like a dream for the Broncos, as the players previously mentioned that making the playoffs was something they never thought possible. However, that was their goal from the start this season, to reach playoffs. Now that it’s been accomplished, the next step is playing past the first round, which will be played Saturday.

“I think last year our lead scorer, Elisia Escanuela, a lot of the mentality was get the ball to Elisia,” junior forward Aurora Dargle said. “This year since our team is so diverse, we’ve all been forced to pull our weight, and it’s like a well-oiled machine. We’re not the most verbal team on the field, but we just get it. (Sale) set big goals for us this year, and in the back of our heads, we’re all like, ‘We have to do better than last year.’”

The Broncos trailed 1-0 midway through the first half after Cactus’ Jaelyn Hendrick found the back of the net.

Poston Butte’s Nicole Touhey tied it two minutes later on a penalty kick, but the Cobras held the lead heading into halftime after the Broncos’ defense failed to clear the ball from the box, which resulted in a goal by Stephanie Brown.

The Broncos began the second half with more urgency and controlled most of the possession time, as midfielder Celeste De La Rosa, who missed the last six games of the regular season due to injury precaution, led the attack early on and scored the equalizer with 28 minutes left in the game.

“We had a big talk during halftime,” Dargle said. “We said whatever you need to do to dig deep, whether you want to do it for the parents or brother or sister, for coach, do it for each other at the very least, and I think that’s what we did.”

Poston Butte’s front line of attack in Rianna Zillmer, Dargle and Touhey kept the pressure on the Cobras defense, which resulted in multiple corner-kick opportunities, two of which nearly found the back of the net off two Dargle headers.

The third time proved to be the charm, as the Broncos earned another corner which again sailed toward Dargle, who finally knocked it in for the lead.

“I’m definitely famous for my headers,” Dargle said. “But it’s been awhile, so I just kept trying to put my head on it, but they had like their biggest girl on me; it wasn’t even my head, it was like my rib cage. No foot, no head, nothing technically right, I just did it.”

The Broncos will have to wait until 12:30 p.m. on Friday to find out who their next opponent is, but one thing they already know is that a new goal has been set.

“I told the girls that I set a goal that I want to get to Saturday and then wherever we go, to be able to get that win so we can get one more win in a playoff round,” Sale said. “That’s what I challenged them with, and we needed this game with all of us back.”

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Maria Vasquez is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. She can be reached at mvasquez@pinalcentral.com.

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