All season long Jessie Cline dreamed of scoring a goal.
But scoring goals didn’t come easy for the senior or her teammates.
Payson High’s girls soccer team entered the season finale against visiting Chino Valley on Thursday with a 2-16-1 record. And the Longhorns were shut out in 14 of those games.
One of those shutouts came in an 8-0 loss at Chino Valley on Sept. 21.
But PHS turned the tables on the Cougars as Cline scored her first career goal in the final 10 minutes of the game and goalkeeper Ali Tenney and the Longhorn defense blanked Chino Valley in a 1-0 victory on senior night.
Players embraced in celebration on the Rumsey Park field when time expired on the game and the season.
“I’ve been wanting to make a goal all year and it was just awesome,” said an excited Cline, who hadn’t played soccer since elementary school before coming out for the team this year.
“First goal, senior night, it couldn’t have been better.”
Cline and sweeper Savannah Grassel are the only seniors on a roster featuring 12 juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen.
Grassel said it’s gratifying to walk off the field for the final time a winner.
“It really means a lot,” she said. “It’s that feeling that all the work we put in this season, that it just all paid off. It’s like finally our team is coming together and putting everything on the field, leaving our heart on the field. It just feels really good. It’s a good way to end it.”
It was a scoreless game until about the 70-minute mark when Cline booted a ball off the foot of junior Marissa Kelley from six yards out and easily beat the Chino Valley keeper for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Cline said she was fortunate to be in the position she found herself in when the ball bounced her way.
“It was kind of luck,” she said. “I mean I was just in the right place. It came off of Marissa Kelley and all I had to do was kick and it went right in.”
The win snapped a seven-game losing streak and a 13-game winless streak for the Longhorns, who finished the season 3-16-1. Cline’s goal was just the 10th the team scored this season.
Payson was No. 12 among 13 teams in the Division IV power rankings ahead of Holbrook, the team the Longhorns earned their other two victories against.
Chino Valley finished 5-10-2 and No. 9 in the power rankings. The top eight teams in the rankings qualified for the state tournament.
Payson head coach Trae Dunman said there’s no doubt that his young squad struggled this fall. But the girls have improved as the season has gone on.
“It has been a tough season,” he said. “It was a new team, working out the kinks, working through the struggles.
“But I talked to the girls about how we’ve improved against teams we played earlier in the season.
“Even though we may not win, we’re still improving as a team and working better.”
The Longhorns’ games with Chandler Arizona College Prep are another good example of what Dunman is talking about. That team beat them 10-0 on Sept. 28. But it was a 2-0 score in the rematch at Payson on Oct. 12.
Dunman said all the players returning in 2014 got a big morale boost from the win.
“Oh, it was great, because the last time we played this team they put us down 8-0,” Dunman said. “And to beat them 1-0 is a great confidence booster, especially for these girls coming back next year.
“I’m basically going to have my same exact team and I think that built them up real strong and I think they’re looking forward to coming back out next year.
“It felt good to just turn it around and just show the girls that they can do it; they can get that win and they can still shut people out, even with the new team that we have this year. I’m really excited for next year.”