When a group of adrenaline-hyped teenage girls are involved, a short span of about 21 days can make a huge difference.
Consider this — on Aug. 28 at Rumsey Park, the Lady Longhorn soccer team owned the home field advantage against Tucson Desert Christian, but were humbled 6-2 by the tradition-rich visitors.
Just weeks later, Sept. 15, the Lady Horns traveled to Tucson to take on an undefeated DC team in a repeat matchup that almost everyone expected the Eagles to dominate from start to finish.
But lo and behold, the Lady Horns created their own version of a Phoenix bird rising from the ashes to ambush the Eagles, 2-1.
Payson’s upset win caught almost everyone off guard, including DC fans.
“I had one come up to me after the game and ask me what I did with the girls the last three weeks,” said coach Amy Wilcox. “He said we were a whole new team.”
Even the referees were taken back by the Lady Horns’ new show of prowess.
“One of the officials from the match also commented on how our team outplayed Desert Christian,” said Wilcox.
The coach promises there was no secret ingredient to the amazing turnaround, but admitted, “Our girls really fought hard to come away with this win.”
As modest as Wilcox has been since her playing days at Payson High, even she must admit some of the credit must go to her for the way she handled the teens following a dismal 0-3 start to the season.
After opening the campaign with losses to DC, Camp Verde and Chino Valley, Wilcox kept her composure promising a turnaround by focusing on improving the Lady Horns’ defense.
There was no panic or finger-pointing, as sometimes happens on sports teams.
Rather, Wilcox continued to work the players hard while encouraging improvement.
“We’ll get better, we’ll improve,” she stressed.
Evidence of a probable turnaround surfaced Sept. 7-8 during the Cougar Invitational in Show Low.
There, the Lady Horns began to show the gutsy resolve Wilcox was hoping for by finishing the tournament with a 2-2 record and in fifth place.
In Saturday’s rematch win against Desert Christian, the Lady Horns jumped on the Eagles out of the gate.
“We came out strong and caught them off guard by scoring in the first minute,” Wilcox said. “There was a scramble near the goal and Macy Dailey found the ball and punched it in.”
In the 12th minute, DC turned a fast break into a point, dead-knotting the score 1-1.
In the second half, Michelle Schatz launched a shot just out of the goalkeeper’s reach to give PHS a 2-1 lead that would hold up thanks to a rock-solid “D.”
“Our defense was able to hold them off the rest of the game to come out with the upset,” Wilcox said. “Alix Parker and Savannah Grassel were standout players in the match.
“Alix sacrificed her body to help our team and Savannah found herself in perfect position several times to prevent more goals from ending up in the back of the net.”
With a new lease on prep soccer life, the Lady Horns return to action at 11 p.m. tomorrow at Rumsey Park against a Show Low Cougar team PHS scrimmaged on Aug. 25.
A junior varsity match will follow the clash at 1 p.m.