Payson High School boys and girls soccer action has come to a close, but not before establishing themselves as one of the tough teams in the 3-A East.
Both teams did battle at the state tournament in Camp Verde Saturday, vying against eight other teams for the state championship title. Payson entered the fray with a reputation of playing tough at home and on the road.
Although the Payson girls went into the tourney with a 7-1-1 record in conference play, the state title eluded them as they dropped their first game in the single elimination duel. Payson was pitted against rival Sedona who had offered up tough competition earlier in the season.
Payson scored in the first half play, taking the early lead. Sedona answered back, placing the ball in Payson's net, tying the score at halftime. The second half of play witnessed some of the hottest soccer action for the girls.
"It was the best game in high school soccer I've ever seen," Coach Linda Gibson said. "The girls played with a lot of heart and soul. It was a very intense game and the girls really gave it their all."
The action played back and forth across the field, with both teams showing great offensive and defensive play. Sedona found the net one more time and that's where the score stayed. When time ran out, the Longhorn varsity girls soccer season had come to an end.
Despite the early loss at state, Coach Gibson said she was proud of her team.
"They are really a neat group of girls. I think we're all sorry to see it end," she said.
The girls officially close out their season with a private banquet. Awards will be presented to each player along with special recognition awards for the Most Valuable Player, Most Improved Player and Best Sportsmanship.
Boys kick squad
Boys varsity action also came to a close at the state tourney with Payson facing what Coach Byron Quinlan said was the best team at the tournament.
"Chino Valley will probably go on to take the state championship," Quinlan said.
The Horns put on one of their most inspired battles of the year in some of the worst weather imaginable.
"It was a cold, wet, miserable night as we played in a down-pour," Quinlan said. "We basically got soaked."
Payson was shut out at the Chino Valley net despite numerous attempts to score. On the other end of the field, Chino Valley flexed their offensive muscle, finding the Payson net three times for a final of 3-0.
Quinlan said the weather conditions played a significant roll in the outcome of the game.
"Our kids really played hard in some very tough conditions, but we just ran into a very strong opponent," he said. "I played our departing seniors quite a bit in this game and their effort was outstanding."
Matt Bielke, Branden Peters, Tyson McKee, David Ortlund, Wes LeSuer, Craig Connolly and Zack McQuain all had outstanding performances and finished their final Longhorn season in a fashion that demonstrated their abilities and teamwork.
"We're going to miss these guys," the coach said. "They've really been leaders all season."