The game summary shows that Makayla Gent scored the only goal Saturday when the Pahrump Valley girls soccer team defeated Western 1-0 to win the Class 3A Southern Region championship at the Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex in Las Vegas.
Don’t tell that to Gent.
“It was our team,” she insisted. “We were working our butts off the entire time. And that goal wasn’t me, it was everyone working together the entire game.”
The Trojans and Warriors know each other well, maybe too well. The Trojans won the first meeting between the teams in the Las Vegas Kick-Off, then they split two regular-season meetings to wind up tied for first place in the Sunset League. With each knowing the other’s strengths and tendencies, each knew how to counter them.
The result was a game with little offensive flow. The Warriors got off more shots, but most of them were weak and easily gathered in by Pahrump Valley goalkeeper Hannah McElheny.
“We just needed to keep the ball on the ground more,” Pahrump Valley coach Julie Carrington said. “They have a strong midfield, so you have to kind of chip it over that midfield, but then we needed to keep it on the ground and just work on passes. That was kind of the thing, keep it away from the midfield, get it to the wings and then get it on the ground and do what we know we can do well.”
There weren’t many quality chances during the game, but the critical one was a chaotic scramble in front of the Western goal in the 76th minute. Moments after an apparent handball, Gent had a shot blocked by a Western defender. The ball was not cleared but instead bounced off of a couple of players and back to Gent.
“To be honest, it was just a blur,” Gent said. “We were all just doing everything we could and taking every shot we could. Then all of a sudden I just see the ball get passed out to me, and I just kicked my foot and it went in by a miracle.”
Miracle or not, the Trojans already were ticketed to their second consecutive state tournament. Last year’s Trojans were the South’s No. 2 seed after losing in the regional final to Sunrise Mountain. That team had plenty of senior firepower: Four of the top five scorers were seniors, as was the starting goalkeeper, and three of them are playing at the collegiate level.
Losing 52 goals to graduation usually means a rebuilding season, but not for Pahrump Valley.
“All I can say is we wanted it,” Gent said. “From the very beginning, we knew that we lost five of our senior starters, but we weren’t going to let that be the team. We were going to make this year the team. We worked our butts off. We ran hard every day.”
“Hard work, dedication and having a group of girls come together that want to play for one another is huge,” Carrington said. “They respect one another, they show respect to the coaches, and they listen.
“They had such a good, positive attitude the entire season, and there were no issues on the team. That is so rare to find that, where there are no conflicts. It just showed that when you can pull together as a team how far you can go.”
Carrington agreed with Gent about the running hard every day and said their willingness to put in the work at practice played a key role in their success.
“They were like, ‘OK, I don’t want to run,’ but you know they’ll just get out there and keep doing it,” Carrington said. “I’m like, ‘So who wants to go to state?’ And they’re like, ‘I do.’ So they get out there, and they run. We’re running two miles at the start of practice, and they’re like, ‘We shouldn’t be doing that,’ but then they follow through and they do it, because they want to go to state.”
And they will, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday back at the Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex. The fact that the berth in state was locked up by a semifinal victory over Sunrise Mountain on penalty kicks meant there was little pressure on either team Saturday, but the game wasn’t played that way.
“This was the regional championship, and we wanted it,” Gent said. “We fought the last two playoff games to get here, and we weren’t about to throw that away. We came here to win, and that’s what we were going to do.”
Pahrump Valley will see another familiar foe Friday night in the Class 3A state semifinals: Truckee, the team that defeated the Trojans 2-1 in double overtime in this round last year.
“I don’t even focus on that until we’re there,” Carrington said. “I know we have to worry probably about Truckee and South Tahoe. The girls know what they are going against because they were there last year.”