For Lady Longhorn soccer coach Joe Schmidt, the Moon Valley Invitational Tournament afforded the opportunity to pit his charges against his alma mater -- Phoenix Alhambra.
In that clash, which took place during fourth and final round of the tournament Dec. 20 to 23 at the Surprise Sports Complex, the Lady Horns edged Alhambra 1-0 on Lori Wing's goal. The winning goal was scored 18 minutes into the first half.
The coach said he enjoyed the thrill of returning home to play his former school, but there were no familiar faces in the crowd."When I went there, it was the dark ages," he said. "Anyone I'd know is gone."
The coach called the win over Alhambra the team's best performance of the young season.
"The girls really jelled as a team," he said. "The less-experienced players stepped up and the defense was improved."
A day prior to the win over Alhambra, the Lady Horns dropped a 2-1 tournament decision to a Higley team that had beaten them 3-1, Dec. 4, in the championship finale of the Higley tournament.
"We played them much better the second time," Schmidt said. "And we did so missing some players with injuries."
Due to the absences, Schmidt had to shuffle players and put them into unfamiliar positions.
Overcoming those challenges, the team held Higley to a 0-0 halftime tie.
Late in the game, the heated clash was tied at 1-1 thanks to a goal off the foot of Michelle Wing.
Higley, however, scored the winning goal with just minutes remaining.
"Somehow they slipped a goal in on us," Schmidt said. "But we played them better with less-experienced players."
The Lady Horns opened the tournament with a 4-2 win over Class 5A Mesa Westwood. Jessica Coleman finished with two goals and Kelsea Palace and Katie Plumb had one each.
In the second round, points scored by Lori Wing and Plumb tied North Phoenix 2-2 in what Schmidt called "our worst game of the season."
By posting a 2-1-1 record, Payson earned a sixth-place finish in the 16-team field.
The Lady Horns return to action at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 5 at Rumsey Park against Moon Valley.