By GANNON HANEVOLD
Moapa Valley Progress
It has been a historic season for the Moapa Valley High School Girls Soccer team. After losing only one game in their 12 league matches, the team claimed the first seed in their division for the first time in MVHS history.
Past Pirate teams had been to the playoffs on a few occasions, but none had made it past the first round. This year, presented with an opportunity to make more history, the Pirates stepped up to the challenge.
Their first playoff game came on Wednesday last week against Cheyenne. Just a minute and a half in, Christie Eriksen scored to give the Pirates the early one goal advantage.
But three minutes later, Cheyenne matched it to tie the game. Neither side had given up on their hot start quite yet.
But Eriksen reclaimed a 2-1 lead for the Pirates a few minutes later. And sure enough, the Desert Shields tied things up before the clock hit 15 minutes.
Still determined to hold on to the lead, Eriksen completed a hat trick with a goal that gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead, just over twenty minutes into the match.
In the second half, not much had changed for either side. Both teams were finding opportunities on offense but couldn’t put a ball in the back of the net. It wasn’t until Bailey Bunker scored, with just under 15 minutes remaining, did the Pirates presumably ice the game. But just minutes later, the Desert Shields responded making the score 4-3.
In the final ten minutes, both teams were playing with everything they had. But the Pirates’ defense won out, and Moapa Valley was moving on as the final whistle blew.
According to head coach Lisa Cornwall, this was the first time a Moapa soccer team had made it past a first round game. But the Pirates kept their heart set on one thing: a trip to the state tournament in Northern Nevada. Just one game stood in their way, a match with Sunrise Mountain.
That game was played the following day. The Pirates were fired up in their huddle before the game, but when they hit the field, they were hit with a shock early. A foul called just outside the box allowed an opportunity for a free kick by one of the Miners’ best scorers. The shot hit the crossbar, but bounced right to Briana Torres-Chavez of Sunrise Mountain, who scored the first goal of the game just over five minutes in.
But the Pirates stepped up their play, and dominated both sides of the field for the rest of the first half. Unfortunately, they couldn’t match it with a goal of their own.
In the second half, the Pirates were still in search of an equalizer. Having come up from her defensive spot for a throw-in, Lainey Cornwall created space on the field and let a deep shot fly. It soared into the left corner of the goal for a stunning game-tying goal, just seven minutes into the second period.
Both sides would remain tied for the following thirty minutes. The Pirates and Miners would head to overtime, made up of two sudden death fifteen minute periods.
In overtime, the story was the same. Defense won out for both teams and opportunities were scarce. At the end of the thirty minute mark in the overtime periods, the score remained knotted. This sent the game to a nail-biting penalty kick shootout.
A Christie Eriksen goal, and a miss for the Miners put the Pirates up 1-0 in the shootout. Then, the Miners responded with consecutive saves of shots by Lexi and Peyton Schraft, and two makes of their own, to regain a 1-2 advantage.
Lainey Cornwall delivered for the Pirates, tying things at two apiece. But once again Sunrise Mountain put it in the back of the net. The score was 3-2 in favor of the Miners.
Now Sunrise Mountain just needed a save to seal the game. A missed shot by the Pirates allowed the Miners to celebrate, and hit Moapa Valley with pure shock. Their miracle season had come to a tragic end, despite playing perhaps one of their best games of the season.
“The bottom line is someone has to win in the end,” Cornwall said. “A penalty kick doesn’t necessarily determine who played the best soccer game. All day long, they were talking about leaving it all on the field and having no regrets. They can say exactly that. They know they gave their best effort. It’s unfortunate the way it ended, but they did everything they said they were going to, and even more.”
Cornwall acknowledged the emotion of the loss, though. “To go out and give your best effort and be that close and have it end like that, it feels like they just took it out of your hands,” she said. “The way it ended was sad, but I couldn’t be any more proud of the way they executed. As a coach, they looked beautiful.”
Cornwall acknowledged and appreciated the impact of everything from the massive outpouring of support from the community, to the help of assistant coach Dionne Jackson in practices and on the field on game day. “When girls feel like they’re supported, they feel like what they’re doing is important,” Cornwall said.
Cornwall also praised her team for being unified and supportive of one another. “At the end of the day, when a foreign exchange student tells you that she’s never played with a team that has felt so like a family and works together so well, that is really the next best thing,” Cornwall said.