After coaching the Lady Longhorns to an 8-10-1 record, coach Randy Wilcox is taking a philosophical approach to summing up the soccer campaign.
"It was a pretty good one for our first season in (Class) 4A," he said. "It's too bad it ended with such an emotional loss."
The defeat was a 3-2 loss to the Page Sand Devils in the consolation finals of the Grand Canyon regional tournament Jan. 27 to 30 in Mingus. If the Lady Horns would have defeated Page, Payson would have been awarded a third seed into the Class 4A state championship tournament.
Instead, Page (8-11-1) received the state bronze medal seed and went on to lose a state first-round game 3-2 in overtime to Moon Valley.
"We played Moon Valley earlier in the season and I think we could have beaten them," Wilcox said. Payson lost (2-0) in that Jan. 2 Moon Valley Rocket Tournament game, but played without three starters.
In the narrow loss to Page, the Horns went up 2-0, but the Sand Devils came roaring back to tie the contest 2-2 at the end of regulation play.
In a pair of 10-minute overtimes, both teams were scoreless. With the outcome still in doubt, a shoot-out was called for. Payson converted its first goal attempt but missed the next three when two were blocked and one hit the cross bar and careened away.
Page was able to score on two of its attempts to nail down the victory and the trip to state.
The victory earned the Devils --hich opened the season 1-7 -- the team's first ever state tournament appearance.
Putting out the Panthers
The Lady Horns opened the regional tournament Jan. 27 with a 5-4 win over the Flagstaff Coconino Panthers. Coconino entered the postseason skirmish as the Grand Canyon region's No. 4 finishers. The Lady Horns wrapped up the regular season in fifth place.
"We were the underdog in that game," Wilcox said. "Our win was an upset."
The two teams battled to a 1-1 tie in regulation play. In two overtime periods, neither team scored.
The tractional shoot-out began with Payson missing its first shot. In later attempts, Amy Wilcox, Jessica Coleman, Lori Wing and Kelsea Palace converted to give Payson the one-point victory.
With the win, Payson advanced to the second round against Grand Canyon regular-season champion Flagstaff Sinagua.
The Mustangs wasted little time in disposing of the Lady Horns 5-0. In the rout, Sinagua outshot Payson 38-7.
"They dominated us. We were flat and tired after the overtime against Coconino," Wilcox said. "Sinagua had a first round bye -- they were fresh and ready."
The Mustangs went on to lose the championship game 2-0 to Mingus, but defeated the Douglas Bulldogs 2-0 in the first round of the state tournament. The Mustangs remain in contention for the state crown.
Payson's loss to Sinagua dropped the Lady Horns into the bronze-medal battle against Page.
Depleted lineup thwarts Horns
Throughout the latter part of the season and in the regional tournament, Payson played without the services of several players who were sidelined by injuries and other reasons.
It was an unusual occurrence when Wilcox was able to start back-to-back games with the same lineup.
Against Page, starting goal keeper Brenna Zumbro did not participate because she was on the east coast, trying out for a college fast-pitch softball scholarship.
Krista LaHaye, a stalwart all season, underwent knee surgery last week. Lori Shepherd quit the team in early January to take an after-school college class.
And, Jenny Cohen had to sit out some of the regular season with an ankle injury.
A Jan. 17 game in Page had to be forfeited when several team members opted to participate in a ski trip to Colorado rather than play the game. The depleted roster prompted Wilcox to call up most of the junior varsity players and subsequently cancel the jayvee program.
With the campaign at an end, the team members will gather one final time for the traditional awards ceremony. Wilcox will announce early next week the time, date and place for the program.