Coronado girls soccer coach Dana Neel was reluctant to talk tactics.
“We still have games left,” she said.
But suffice to say, the Cougars’ defensive adjustments in the second half Saturday proved pivotal.
Coronado used a makeshift backline for the final 20-plus minutes and held on for a 1-0 victory over Foothill in the Class 4A Sunrise Region final at Bettye Wilson Park.
It is the fourth straight region title for the Cougars (19-2-4), who will take on Reno or Arbor View in the state tournament Friday at Bettye Wilson Park.
Foothill (12-3-3) meets Arbor View in the state play-in game at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Faith Lutheran.
“As always, the regional title is important to us,” Neel said. “No matter who we play in this situation, it’s a tough game. And Foothill definitely brought it today and gave us a run for our money.
“My girls played solid. They’re at the top of their game right now and they moved the ball around well and we got our opportunities and luckily we came away with the one.”
Coronado’s Katelyn Moxley converted a penalty kick in the 53rd minute for the game’s only goal after she was fouled by a Foothill defender near the top of the 18-yard box as the two battled for possession.
Neel was forced to insert Emily Wickens on the left side of defense to help cut off Foothill’s dangerous crosses from the wing, and Ariann Sanford came on in the final 10 minutes to solidify the right side.
Rachel Morris made five saves to record the shutout.
“I credit my keeper for holding them at zero there. She had an awesome game, along with the defense,” Neel said. “What it comes down to is we have a solid (defense). We’re strong in the back, but we’re also smart in the back. It’s not by chance that we fall into that situation, it’s by smart players that created that situation for us.”
Foothill had long spells of sustained pressure throughout the match, and its best chance to tie the game came in the 74th minute when Annalise Huber’s shot from the left wing was cleared off the line by Cougars defender Cassidy Bibbings.
The Falcons nearly went ahead midway through the first half when Audrianna Garcia’s pass over the top of Coronado’s defense released Paityn Toohey, but Morris raced off her line to smother the ball.
“I think there were some questionable calls, but that’s the nature of the beast,” Foothill coach Cynthia Guzman said. “Coronado is a great program, and I have a lot of respect for them. At the same time, whoever was here and saw the game knows we won that game.”