First-year Lady Longhorn soccer coach Randy Wilcox's decision to alter a defensive strategy that had worked most of the season paid dividends in the team's 2-2 tie against top-ranked St. Johns.
In two previous meetings between Payson and St. Johns, the Redskins used their superior team speed to outscore the Lady Longhorns.
In practices leading up to the Oct. 23 Rim region championship showdown at Rumsey Park against the Redskins, Wilcox changed the team defense into a less aggressive one that better protected its own goal.
"It worked," Wilcox said after watching his team play the highly favored Skins to a deadlock.
Indications that the Payson defense was going to function well were evident during the first 37 minutes when the teams were locked in a scoreless tie. In the 38th minute, the Horns jumped out to a 1-0 lead on junior striker Amy Wilcox's score on a breakaway goal.
Just over one minute later, Amy upped the Horn lead to 2-0 on a 20-yard kick off the post.
In the second half, the Redskin offensive attack came to life scoring two quick goals.
The game eventually went into two five-minute overtime periods before officials ended it because of darkness. The new all-weather artificial playing field at Rumsey Park does not have lights.
Following the game, coach Wilcox praised the entire team for turning in outstanding efforts against what appeared to be overwhelming odds.
"We played a great game," he said. "Every girl contributed to our success."
The coach also lauded the players for the steady improvement they have shown.
"We have come so far since the start of the season," he said.
Sophomore Kelsea Palace drew praise from the coach for seven steals and her ability to control the middle of the field.
Amy Wilcox was named the player of the game.
The game ended in a tie, but it was St. Johns that had the most scoring opportunities. The Redskins out-shot Payson 15-11.
With the tie, the Lady Longhorns improved their record to 9-6-1 overall.
Because the two teams wrapped up the regular season with identical league leading marks of 5-0-1, both will be named Rim region co-champions.
According to Wilcox, a coin flip will determine which team receives the first seed into the state tournament when it begins Nov. 2 at Tucson Udall Park.