Information from Pima’s media relations department contributed to this report:
The No. 4 Pima Community College women’s soccer team fell just short in its quest for the program’s first NJCAA Division II national championship on Saturday in Wichita, Kan., losing to No. 1 Heartland (Ill.) Community College.
The Aztecs (16-4-2) finished in a 2-2 draw in regulation and overtime but lost for 4-2 in penalty kicks.
Pima missed its first two attempts while the Hawks converted on their first three.
The Aztecs fell behind early when Heartland’s Lucia Cuadra scored in the 4th minute. The Aztecs tied the game at 1-1 when sophomore Kaitlyn Bassett (Sabino) got by a defender with a header and hit her shot in the box in the 20th minute.
The Aztecs took the lead when freshman Delaney Buntin (Cienega) took advantage of a miscue by the Heartland goalkeeper and scored in the box to give Pima a 2-1 lead in the 68th minute.
The Hawks (19-0-1) responded to tie the game in the 71st minute when Cuadra scored her second goal of the game.
“Today’s game was very competitive. I’m super proud of how the girls played. It was unfortunate to be up a goal and give that lead up because our defense has been really stellar this whole tournament,” Pima coach Kendra Veliz said. “I’m really proud of how the girls competed, it was the No. 1 seed (Heartland CC) and my assistant coach said we scored more goals on them than any other team. Two goals was a huge accomplishment. Both ends I’m really proud with how the team played.”
(Part II) Coach Kendra talks about making it to the National Championship Game and what it meant to her to bring this team to Kansas. “They’ll remember this for a really long time.” #PimaSoccer #AztecTough #NJCAANationalFinal pic.twitter.com/VZuDy4Yrlv
— PimaAthletics (@PimaAthletics) November 21, 2021
The Hawks allowed two goals in their first game of the season but no more than that in a single game.
Veliz said her team showed her something when they upset No. 1-ranked Phoenix College to open the 2021 season. She called playing and beating Phoenix College in the semifinal round a “full circle moment for the team.”
“I do believe from where we started, they had something special from the start,” she said. “We had set some season goals and it did include a trip to Kansas so we were really excited to meet that goal.
“It included a certain number of goals and a certain number of shootouts. We were able to achieve that goal as well. From the start I saw something special in this team.”
Since becoming head coach at Pima in 2001, this is the furthest Veliz has taken a team in the national tournament. They made it to the semifinal round in 2007.
“It really meant a lot to me to get these girls here to begin with. We talked about it and when we were having some low points in the season and trying to fire them up for the long haul to get through playoffs,” Veliz said. “We talked about the advantages of being able to play on this stage. Part of it was about winning but it was about a lot more than that. It’s about experience, it’s about the exposure and the benefits of being here. I think they earned this trip. I think they earned their spot in the championship. I’m excited that they got the experience and even without winning, they’ll remember this for a really long time.”
The Aztecs’ 16 wins are the most in a season since 2016.
Veliz also picked up her 250th career win at Pima on Oct. 16 in Pima’s win at Paradise Valley Community College.