SAN TAN VALLEY — The Poston Butte girls soccer team has been around less than a decade, but the program made a huge leap forward in the 2018-19 season.

The team had just two winning seasons prior to this year, and had never made the playoffs.

“It was a great season,” Broncos coach Dean Sale said. “The girls really stepped up and bought into our philosophy and what we were trying to do. Obviously looking at how we started the season with a loss 8-0 to Prescott, and then actually keeping them held at bay on Saturday at their home field, shows the great improvement and how the girls did buy into the philosophy.”

In his first year as head coach, Sale has turned around a Broncos team that went 7-10-1 last year into playoff contending team that nearly pulled off the upset on Saturday.

The No. 11 Broncos lost 1-0 to No. 6 Prescott in the first round of the 4A state playoffs. It was a scoreless game into the second half, and Prescott’s game-winning goal came with 17 minutes left in regulation.

“We had played them before, and we knew what kind of them they were,” Sale said. “We were able to mentally get the girls ready, we reviewed film from that previous game, and we were able to break down different things.”

Following that 8-0 loss, Poston Butte went on to win its next six regular season games, outscoring opponents 36-6.

“The girls made comments that they didn’t even know that there was such a thing as playoffs,” Sale said. “They never even contemplated ever making playoffs, they didn’t know that existed for them as a possibility. So it took a little bit of time to change the mentality and to see them make that change and be willing to sacrifice.”

Sale said the program lost some girls who just wanted to have fun and not commit to being a competitive team.

Following their six-game winning streak, the Broncos ran into two top-10 opponents in Phoenix Arcadia and Chandler Seton Catholic. Despite two lopsided losses, Poston Butte finished strong, winning its remaining games, which led to the Broncos hosting a play-in game against Kingman Lee Williams.

“As bad as the scores looked (against Arcadia and Seton Catholic), I thought that the girls played really well,” Sale said. “The way we played both of those teams, it was a huge switch to the girls buying into the program and the ideas that we were trying to build.”

Going into next year, the Broncos are poised to make another playoff run, despite the departure of a few seniors, including leading scorer Elisia Escanuela (20 goals).

Set to return for Poston Butte next year are freshman forward Rianna Zillmer, who finished second in scoring with 13 goals, and junior goalkeeper Jennifer Alvillar, who allowed 24 goals on the season.

Additionally, Sale will have a group of incoming freshmen coming from competitive middle school programs.

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