Marcella Brooks didn’t start the season on Centennial’s varsity soccer team.
The freshman did, however, continue to prove she belonged there the whole time on Thursday evening.
Brooks scored an early goal and had a second-half assist in the Bulldogs’ 2-1 upset win over Southwest League champion Palo Verde in the Sunset Region semifinals at Bettye Wilson Park.
Centennial (12-8) will face Northwest champion Arbor View (18-1-1) at noon Saturday in the region final at Bettye Wilson Park.
“We initially put her on (junior varsity) to start the year to build up her skills and see how she was doing,” Centennial coach Kristina Kasten said. “Right away, we were just like, ‘No way. She’s got to move up.'”
Brooks started right where she left off on Monday, when she scored the winning goal in a 3-2 overtime win over Shadow Ridge, by scoring a goal three minutes into the match to swing momentum in Centennial’s favor.
She received a ball from teammate Ashley Marshall, dribbled between two Palo Verde defenders and sent the ball to the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
“Her goal kept that intensity going and kept us excited,” Kasten said. “It really perked our confidence up and helped us to keep working.”
Brooks also assisted on McKenna Stratton’s goal in the 50th minute.
Kasten still didn’t feel safe with a two-goal lead, though.
“At that moment, I just kept telling them to work for another,” she said. “It’s for that security. We had to just keep pushing hard, rather than let go and think it’s OK.
“The last five minutes were the most stressful. Palo was pushing harder than it had the whole game. They were coming at us hard, shot after shot. Luckily, our defense did a good job of holding them off.”
Palo Verde’s Jadyn Nogues scored on a penalty kick with 25 minutes to play to make it 2-1.
But the Panthers (13-5-1) couldn’t find the equalizer after.
Kasten was happy to finally leave with the win over the Panthers. Centennial had lost five consecutive matches against Palo Verde, dating back to Nov. 1, 2012.
“It was more revenge,” Kasten said. “We were so upset by that 3-1 loss (early this season) and the loss last year that knocked us out of the playoffs. We wanted to show them we are a strong team. Palo is such a strong team. They have beaten us repeatedly the past two years, so it’s great to feel this way.”
Addison Riddle made 10 saves for Centennial.
Arbor View 3, Bishop Gorman 2 — Bailee Davis’ 28-yard free kick with five minutes left in the match broke a 2-2 tie and sent the Aggies by the Gaels (15-3) in the other semifinal.
Arbor View fell behind on an unassisted goal by Gorman’s Isabel Rolley in the 20th minute, but Allyssa Larkin answered just minutes later off an assist by Sierra Vicente to make it 1-1 at halftime.
Larkin assisted on Deja Erickson’s goal that put the Aggies up 2-1.
“The kids showed a lot of fight,” Arbor View coach Jay Howard said. “We’ve had a lot of success, but this is a new team this year. We have mostly sophomores, so they got to experience it. They just kept fighting.”
Arlie Jones scored a second half goal for Gorman.