Madelyn Souza calmly stepped up to the ball, sitting about 35 yards from the Western goal, with about 15 minutes left in the second half.
Well, calmly on the outside, anyway.
“The nerves were all over the place,” the sophomore admitted afterward.
It didn’t show. Souza launched a perfect strike in the upper corner of the net, over the outstretched hands of Warriors goalkeeper Maria Yanez to give Pahrump Valley a 3-2 lead. That lead held, and the Trojans had a critical early-season Class 3A Sunset League victory.
Each team had opened Sunset play with a victory, but Pahrump Valley is the only team in the five-team league to win its first two games.
In the first half, it looked as if neither team would take charge of the game. Neither could generate any momentum, chances were few and far between, and at one point Pahrump Valley coach Julie Carrington let it be known that passive play wasn’t getting it done.
“I’m done with the pass, pass, pass when we’re 20 yards from the goal,” she shouted with about 11 minutes left in the first half. “Shoot the ball.”
It was almost as if both sides heard her, because the second half became something of a shootout. Kaylee Vega got things started, getting ahead of the field and sending a ball past Yanez for a 1-0 Trojans lead. But Geraldi Gomez answered for the Warriors shortly thereafter, and Caro Acosta put the visitors ahead just four minutes later.
But the Trojans’ tying goal happened quickly. A hard shot was kicked by Yanez right back to Grace Gundacker, who sent it right back into the net, pinball-style, to pull Pahrump Valley into a tie. Twelve minutes later, Souza connected on her long free kick and the Trojans were home free.
Almost. The Warriors gave them a big scare with about eight minutes to go, as a shot off the far post ricocheted dangerously in front of Pahrump Valley keeper Raelean Sutton, who was hobbled by an injury. Sophomore Julia Hemphill made a sliding move to kick the ball over the end line but hit the ground hard and appeared to slide or bounce against the goal.
Both she and Sutton headed to the sidelines, but the threat was turned aside as Hannah McElheny gathered in the ensuing corner kick.
One more save four minutes later and the issue was settled.
“This was a huge win for us,” Carrington said. “We needed this win to stay on top on our division.”
On Friday, the Trojans played their next-to-last nonconference match and rolled to a 9-0 win over Cheyenne as Gundacker, Kiara Ramos and Halie Souza each scored twice while Makayla Gent added a goal and two assists. McElheny needed two saves to post the shutout.
Pahrump Valley (7-3-1, 2-0 Sunset) returns to league play for its next five matches.