Girls’ Soccer: Carson upends Douglas to claim regional title
Carson High girls’ soccer coach Randy Roser was so focused on his defense that he didn’t even get to see the goal that ended up winning the first regional title of his nine years at the helm of the program.
It was that defensive focus, coupled with a pair of well-finished goals sandwiched around halftime, that vaulted the Senators to a 2-1 upset win over the Douglas Tigers in the Northern 4A Regional Championship at Damonte Ranch Saturday afternoon.
Josi Daggs, who had the game’s first goal, crossed a nice ball in front of the net just after the opening kick of the second half and Jamie Perez was there to tap it past Douglas keeper Bri Randall for the 2-1 lead.
“This is surreal,” a smiling Daggs said after the game. “I’m so happy that we finally won zone and beating Douglas just made our day.
“I got a ball placed to me into the corner, I looked at whoever was there and put it to that space. It worked out.”
Roser missed the play.
“I didn’t see it,” Roser said with a laugh. “I was watching the defense to make sure the counter-attack was taken care of, I looked up and the ball was in the net. Obviously something went right.”
Roser’s attention to the defense was well-earned as Douglas pounded the Senator net with no less than eight scoring opportunities over the final 30 minutes of the game.
The Senator back line of Katherine Leist, Alissa Hayes, Shannon Flaherty and Michelle Sandage held strong, though, and keeper Emily Heller came up with a number of key saves down the stretch to preserve the win.
“Our back line has to worry about a player like (Douglas speedster) Katie Dry and sometimes I just get caught up in watching them.
“We started off the season with the defense being our worry because we’re a young team with a lot of sophomores and juniors. They’re peaking at the right time and coming together.”
Sandage often drew the assignment of marking Dry while midfielder Kenzie Tillitt was tasked with marking Douglas career goals leader Tia Lyons.
While the defense held off the Tiger offense, both of Carson’s goals came on executed plays — something that Roser said was lacking during the Senators’ two regular season losses to Douglas.
“We really didn’t change anything (from earlier in the year),” Roser said. “It was just a matter of finisher our opportunities.
“That’s always been our problem against this team. We’ve had the opportunities but we’ve never capitalized. I told the girls before the game just to put the ball in the net and they’d be fine. We’re not worried about keeping a shutout, we were just worried about outscoring them.”
That started in 30th minute when Tillitt slotted a ball for Daggs on the left side. Daggs slanted in toward the net and fired a chest-level shot at Randall. Randall deflected the shot up in the air but it arced over her head and across the goal line.
It was the first time Douglas trailed in the first half this season.
“Me and Kenzie connected really well,” Daggs said. “We saw the slotted spot open and she played it to me. I just knew I had to get it in one of the corners and I had to pick it. Luckily it went through the keeper’s hands and went in.”
Nine minutes later, Dry broke free behind the Carson defense, charged hard toward the net and beat Heller with a high shot to the far post.
The teams went into halftime tied, setting up Perez’s game-winner in the 42nd minute.
“I think Carson really wanted the win,” Douglas coach Lorraine Fitzhugh said. “They gained a lot of confidence and composure and won that zone playoff game that they have struggled with.
“That fed into how they played and I’m giving them a nod. Their team put together a beautiful game — a game-winning game.”
Douglas had three solid chances to tie the game late with the best coming when Dry taking two defenders spaced 10 yards apart on a breakaway before chipping a shot over the cross bar. Freshman forward Gabby Vega also had two late shots that both had chances of slipping in.
“League play has not tested us like this,” Fitzhugh said. “You get a lot of physical battle (in the playoffs) and Manogue woke us up (in the semifinals) as far as battling.
“We have a real talented group that tends to start early but we haven’t been behind,” Fitzhugh said. “We haven’t had a game like this. The combination of veterans and young ones have to define themselves for this year. They’re figuring out what they are made of today and we’ll see next week how they respond.
“Good competitors bounce back from things like this. Next week will be a different situation.”
Douglas will take on Manogue at Damonte Ranch on Friday at noon in the state semifinals. Carson then faces Southern 4A champ Pahrump Valley at 2 p.m., leaving open the possibility that the Senators and Tigers could see each other again in the state championship.
“We talked about that before the game where if you win, congratulations, but don’t get too far into the emotion,” Roser said. “We still have two more games to go if we’re going to achieve our ultimate goal.
“It’s hard, the way our state tournament is set. It changes next year (with Clark County set to move girls’ soccer to the fall), but you have to have a good game and then turn around and do it again the next week. We’ll be ready for it.”