Fueled by a hat trick from freshman midfielder Vivien Villarreal, No. 2 Walden Grove girls soccer rolled past No. 1 Sahuarita 4-0 on Wednesday night. Still, a big storyline was the matchup itself since it was the first-ever game between the programs, with both ranked in the first two spots of the AIA power rankings.
The 4A Gila foes’ high school campuses are located just minutes down the street from each other.
“That’s what I was talking about with Brian (Sahuarita head coach Brian Wright) over there. It’s such a big thing. “Every year, we feel like we get good results, but we just don’t get that high ranking,” Walden Grove head coach Troy Bosley said. “It’s like they finally start to see what’s coming out of here in our soccer community, and our small community should be very proud.”
The No. 1 ranking for Sahuarita marks the first time they have occupied the top spot since the AIA power rankings were unveiled in 2013-14.
Walden Grove ended the 2014-2015 season ranked No. 1 in the old Division III configuration to win its only state championship in program history.
Sahuarita (7-1) finished with only seven shots on goal, struggling all night primarily because of its inability to get the ball to senior forwards Samantha Wright, who has 110 with the varsity program — averaging 2.2 goals per game this season, and Rylee Arrington, who is averaging two goals per game.
The constant attack on offense from Walden Grove (6-0) wore down the Mustang defense, leading to 16 shots on goal, with Villareal recording her first-ever hat trick with the Red Wolves, scoring in the match’s 11th, 19th and 67th minutes.
“It’s just a great feeling. I’m happy for these girls, and this one is amazing, Villareal said. “Moving forward, it’s going to be a very good conference win for the team.”
Villareal played with several Sahuarita players in youth soccer.
“Those are former teammates, you know,” Villareal said. “During this game, before this game and after this game we’re always keeping in touch, and during the game, we’re always talking so it’s fun.”
Junior Milana Eyrich assisted on Villareal’s second goal.
When senior forward Jessica Garcia scored in the 68th minute, the game was already well out of reach for Sahuarita.
Walden Grove took over the top spot in the 4A conference when the AIA released its power rankings Thursday morning.
With six games remaining in the regular season, the Red Wolves have a realistic shot of entering the playoffs ranked No. 1.
Walden Grove lost in the 4A state semifinal last season to the eventual champion Salpointe Catholic in penalty kicks.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment but it’s not our end goal,” Bosley said. “Our end goal is that state championship. Losing in the semifinal last year has kind of fueled our fire. We’re not done until we get to the final and win it. This is great, this is all nice, but we’ve got a bigger picture.”
Sahuarita dropped to No. 2 in Thursday’s power rankings.
With four matches left in the regular season for Sahuarita, Wright focuses on preparing his team for the playoffs, which the Mustangs still have a favorable chance of making.
“Life’s all about building and rebuilding. We built ourselves up to this. We’ve gotten knocked down a few rungs tonight. We recover, rebuild, and get ourselves another win streak going and try to find our way to get in a good spot in the playoffs.”
Wright, who coached Villareal in youth soccer, briefly spoke with Boswell when shaking hands after the game.
“My message to him (Bosley) was take it as far as you can get it. If we can’t win it all this year, I hope you do,” he said. “I’m just as proud of his player (Villareal), the one that scored the three goals. I gave her a big old hug because she’s my kid from when she was younger. I’ve been coaching her since she was a baby. She moved on when she was in sixth grade, but if I can’t win, I hope she wins.
“I hope they win. I hope this community gets to taste a little bit of winning.”
Walden Grove plays next at No. 12 Canyon del Oro (5-2) Friday night. Sahuarita plays next Tuesday night at home against Douglas (1-7).