The Red Mountain girls soccer team heads into the offseason knowing it came too soon.
The Mountain Lions let a three-goal lead dissipate in regulation Thursday and Gilbert put the game away in the early moments of the overtime in a 4-3 loss for the Lions.
Eighteenth-seeded Red Mountain (8-9-2) was eliminated from the play-in portion of the 6A Conference postseason by the No. 15 Tigers in a game that completely swung Gilbert’s way after Ellie Neal scored with 10 minutes left in the first half.
It cut into Red Mountain’s 3-0 lead and started a string of four-unanswered goals by Gilbert (11-10) including Sarah Boudreau’s game winner minutes into the first overtime period.
“It’s frustrating,” Red Mountain senior captain and defender Brittani Rusnak. “You go out to win every game and we came up short. We’ve come a long way. This was an example of playing with your heart and truly wanting it.
“We played for each other, but (Gilbert) got momentum and we couldn’t stop them.”
The way the loss transpired will sting for awhile knowing the Mountain Lions seemingly had control of the game in the early stages, but the young roster has a chance to grow from it.
“I thought we played our game in the beginning and then let it get a way from us,” Red Mountain coach Vicente Gallegos said. “We couldn’t withstand the momentum shift. We had our opportunities and we just couldn’t finish.”
Red Mountain’s goals came in the first 23 minutes from Emily Bailey, Jessie Boult and Kaci Tilghman.
The senior class left its mark and now it will be up to the younger players to build off the success.
“I told the seniors they have to leave their mark and legacy,” Gallegos said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean wins and losses. It means making sure the underclassmen care about this program and they will care even more next year.”
The other two Mesa programs in the play-in games advanced to the 6A state tournament as Mountain View’s girls squad, seeded 16th, topped No. 17 Cibola 2-1 in overtime, while the Mesa boys program, seeded 16th, topped No. 17 Tucson 2-0.
The 16-team bracket for both 6A tournaments will be released on Friday.
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to email@example.com.