SCG v Sedona Red Rock c200 Seniors

Payson’s four seniors on the girls soccer team were recognized after Wednesday’s game against Sedona Red Rock. Pictured are (from left): Jhoanna Ochoa, Ruby Bainori, Breana Moores and Emma Paine. See more photos at payson.com/multimedia.

They started by releasing pink balloons in a tribute to those who’ve battled cancer and either lost, won or continue fighting.

That led to some tears.

They then went out and posted their first shutout of the season.

That led to some cheers.

And they ended with a postgame salute to their four seniors.

A few more tears.

Yes, Wednesday was an emotional day for Payson’s girls soccer players, coaches and families at Rumsey Park.

The Longhorns beat 2A Central rival Sedona Red Rock 2-0 on a pair of goals by freshman Chloe Hancock, strong defense and stellar goaltending by junior Kayde Johnson.

It was just their third victory against eight losses this season. But coach David Cluff said last week that the team is improving. And they’ve demonstrated that improvement by winning two of their three games in a five-day period. The Longhorns won 3-1 at Holbrook on Saturday.

“Kayde had a great game and the defense really showed what they’ve been learning all season,” Cluff said.

Wednesday marked their second victory over Red Rock (0-10). They opened the season with a 3-2 triumph in Sedona.

Payson has three games remaining this season. The Longhorns host Camp Verde at 4 p.m. on Monday and Snowflake at 4 p.m. on Wednesday before closing with a game at Show Low on Friday.

Stopper Ruby Bainori, wings Breana Moores and Jhoanna Ochoa and midfielder Emma Paine were recognized at the end of the game. The senior ceremony traditionally happens at halftime of the final home game of the season, but most Payson teams have been holding the ceremonies early in case COVID-19 alters the schedule as it did for all sports this past spring, denying all Payson High spring senior athletes a chance to be recognized with their families for their commitment to the team.

“It was a really hard night playing (one of my last games) with everyone I’ve played with since my freshman year,” Ochoa said. “And I became really close with the freshmen this year and it’s going to be hard to leave. It was emotional, but I think the last (game) is going to be even more emotional.”

Moores also said it’s not easy watching her final high school soccer season wind down. “I’ve been playing with the girls since my freshman year so it’s pretty emotional,” Moores said.

Winning just made it better.

“It’s just nice to win,” she said.

Cluff said Wednesday wasn’t as difficult for him as it will be when these seniors who’ve been so important to the team play their final game next week.

“Ruby’s really helped the team come together,” he said. “Ruby’s helped keep the defense together. Jho’s given us a lot of fire. Bre’s really come along great; really helped our front line get moving forward. Emma’s been just solid all year helping keep things together and moving.

“So, it’ll be really sad when we play our last game with these girls.”

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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