PARADISE VALLEY — It didn’t take long for the Phoenix Country Day boys soccer team to impose its will over American Leadership Academy-Ironwood on Wednesday.
The host Eagles scored seven first-half goals and ultimately won the game 9-0 by the mercy rule in the first round of the 3A state tournament.
No. 2 Phoenix Country Day (13-0) got four goals from sophomore Speed Gregory, as the Eagles advance to the state quarterfinals.
Ethan Rosenfeld scored the first goal of the game in the 12th minute, and things went downhill rapidly for No. 15 ALA-Ironwood (8-6).
“We gave them a lot of shots too,” Warriors coach Jeff Laniewski said. “Five out of the first seven (goals) were mistakes on our part, and you can’t do that against a team like this. They’re a quality squad, there’s no question about it.”
ALA-Ironwood had played four of the top eight teams in 3A during the regular season, but Laniewski said Phoenix Country Day was the best team it faced this year.
When the Eagles took a 2-0 lead on a Gregory goal in the 19th minute, the mood changed. All of a sudden, the Warriors players were chirping at each other, pointing fingers and showing frustration. Things got more physical as well, with Eagles coaches complaining about what they saw as fouls by the Warriors.
Phoenix Country Day added five more goals in the final 16 minutes of the first half, and the behavior of a few ALA-Ironwood players went from bad to worse. Eventually Laniewski had to sub two players out of the game because he was upset with their attitude and lack of sportsmanship.
“We’re a young team,” Laniewski said. “We haven’t been in this position (being routed) all year, and when that happens, we just didn’t respond appropriately.”
That was the most disappointing part for Laniewski, who prides himself on getting his players to play together and to avoid and blaming each other.
“I won’t have that out there,” he said. “We have to play with a lot more composure … it’s probably a little bit on me because I didn’t anticipate that we’d be [in that situation], and I should have planned for that.”
The Warriors defense looked lost at times, and with the skill of the Eagles forwards, a snowball turned into an avalanche. Laniewski tried to adjust his defensive strategy, but he chuckled and said that didn’t work either. The onslaught was just too much.
Rosenfeld and freshman Sven Riester each scored two goals for Phoenix Country Day.
Due to defensive breakdowns, ALA-Ironwood goalkeeper Elijah Pensis-Ramirez never had a chance on most of the goals he allowed. He made a few good saves as well, despite the lopsided score.
The Warriors also lost their top defensive player, Christian Hardenburg, early in the second half after he took an inadvertent kick to the head right above his eye. That opened up a cut that poured blood, and he had to come out of the game.
Laniewski said Hardenburg was going to the hospital for stitches but that he would be fine.
Although it was a bitter end to the season, the Warriors had a memorable season. They made their first postseason appearance in just their second year of Arizona Interscholastic Association competition, and they won a postseason game — a 2-0 play-in round victory over Phoenix NFL Yet Academy last Friday.
“I think the biggest thing that we did do (this season) was come together as a team — until the last game, and then we fell apart,” Laniewski said. “I think next year, certainly we’ll be better, but all in all, I’m pleased with the performance we had out of the kids this year.”