Pahrump Valley girls soccer coach Pamela Larmouth knew the status quo was not going to work on Saturday.
Considering her team had been beaten twice by Faith Lutheran, she knew it was time to mix things up.
The plan worked. Sydney Sladek had two goals and an assist to lead the Trojans to a 3-0 win over the Crusaders in the Division I-A state championship game at Heritage Park.
The title was the second straight for Pahrump (22-2), which won the Class 4A state title last fall.
“Our strategy today was totally different because we knew (Faith Lutheran) had our number,” said Sladek, whose squad was defeated by the Crusaders 2-0 in last week’s regional tourney. “We wanted to be first to the ball and have total possession and control.”
Larmouth, who usually spreads the field, decided to throw her team’s opponent off by drawing her players into the middle of the field. That tactic paid dividends when Brittany Klenzcar passed from the right corner to Sladek, who fired from close range to give the Trojans a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.
“Our philosophy is to always score first,” said Larmouth, whose team also eliminated Faith Lutheran in last year’s state tourney. “That sets up your whole game.”
Sladek said the benefits of her coach’s tactical decision were apparent from the start.
“We lost to (Faith Lutheran) the last two times we played them,” said Sladek, who finished the season with a state-record 78 goals. “We wondered what we were going to do.”
Sladek got an assist with five minutes left in the half when she passed to Courtney Lindsey in front of an open goal. Lindsey scored, and Pahrump led 2-0 at halftime.
Faith Lutheran (18-6-2) squandered several second-half opportunities before Sladek scored again with 10 minutes left.
Sladek’s strong performance helped deny a first state championship to the Crusaders, who also lost in the 2004 and 2008 title games.
“I knew we had it in us,” Sladek said. “And it showed today.”
Larmouth, who will graduate several key seniors in the spring, agreed.
“The girls worked extra hard, and they earned this,” she said. “It feels like vindication.”
Goalkeeper Kiaya Nuack earned the shutout.