PHOENIX - Aleah Strength's goal with a minute left in regulation broke a scoreless tie against Notre Dame and kept alive Catalina Foothills' chances of winning a fourth straight state title.
"I knew we were running short on time and I figured I might as well take the chance," Strength said. "It could have been our last game so I just went for it and it worked."
Foothills will face fourth-seeded Glendale Apollo in the Division II state championship game on Saturday at Gilbert Campo Verde High School at 10:30 a.m.
Strength's goal came after both defenses had shined throughout the entire match. The two teams were limited to only four shots on goal in the first half at Paradise Valley High School.
Notre Dame "kept us under pressure all game long," Foothills coach Charlie Kendrick said. "We never had space unless we played really fast and really accurately. Anytime we made a mistake there was always a player there."
The third-seeded Falcons had a chance to take the lead on their fourth trip into the Saints' side of the field, but Strength's shot was swiped away by goalkeeper Meredith Reinhardt in the 10th minute.
The offensive struggle continued into the second half until Foothills began to pick up momentum in the 60th minute when Strength and Emily Parker combined for three shots.
The Falcons finally broke through in the 79th minute, when Strength kicked a loose ball into the left corner of the net.
"I thought it was a gritty game," Kendrick said. "The more we settled down, the less physically competitive the game was and we were able to move the ball better."
The No. 10 Saints had one last chance with eight seconds left on a free kick by Michelle Mahoney, but goalkeeper Laura DeMers batted away the shot to seal the victory.
"When I saw that ball coming, in my head I was thinking that we were almost there and I am not going to let this go in," DeMers said.
The Falcons and Hawks previously met in the Phoenix Horizon Tournament in December, where Foothills defeated Apollo 6-0.
• Glendale Apollo 2, Sahuarita 0: At Paradise Valley High School, Apollo moved on to the state championship behind two goals from Daniella Fonseca to defeat Sahuarita 2-0 in the semifinals.
Fonseca broke through Sahuarita's defense in the 58th minute lining a shot into the back of the net to give the Hawks a 1-0 advantage. She added to the lead again in the 75th minute with a header over goalkeeper Lilia Calvillo.
"I think we were letting them get to the ball first, and at this level in the tournament you can't let that happen and expect to win," Sahuarita coach Rosi Reeves said.
The Mustangs had a chance to take the lead in the 10th minute when Taylor McClelland went on breakaway, but she was caught from behind by a defender and had the ball deflected away.
The semifinal appearance for Sahuarita was the first in school history.
"These girls have worked really hard all season and it's nice to know that we have reached another level," Reeves said. "It gives the girls something to strive for in the future."