Catalina Foothills wasted no time finding an advantage in the quarterfinals of the Division II state tournament.
Aminah Settles found Amber Measley for a score less than a minute into Saturday's match against Ironwood Ridge, and the three-time defending state champions took a lead they would not relinquish on the way to a 3-0 victory at home.
The Falcons (20-3-2) will face Scottsdale Notre Dame in Wednesday's state semifinals. The game will be played at Phoenix Paradise Valley High School at 5 p.m.
"We knew they were a good team so we had to put it away as soon as we could, because we knew it was going to be tough," Measley said.
The junior forward ignited the Falcons offense again in the 25th minute, assisting Emily Parker for the team's second goal.
Catalina Foothills had an opportunity to chip another score in with two minutes left in the first half, but I-Ridge goalkeeper Megan Logue saved three shots in a 10-second span.
The Falcons' third goal came in the 51st minute, when Michelle O'Hara sneaked a shot past Logue into the back of the net.
Though Catalina Foothills had an early lead to work with, coach Charlie Kendrick thought his team never looked completely comfortable.
"We were pretty nervous throughout the game," Kendrick said. "We gave up the ball a lot and never really settled down."
He hopes to see his team improve its passing in the next round to help control the flow of the game.
"At this time in the tournament, sometimes you just have to be gritty and fight it out," said Kendrick, who has led his team to six state titles since 2005.
The Falcons' defensive performance did, however, impress the coach.
Ironwood Ridge (14-7-3) was only able to get one shot past Foothills' back line in the first half.
"We defended pretty well, and I don't think we gave them any good chances all game long, and Ironwood Ridge is a pretty good team," said Kendrick.
Saturday marked the second time in as many seasons that the two teams met in the second round in the playoffs.
For many of the Nighthawks, though, Saturday was the first time competing in a playoff atmosphere. Last year's team was made up mostly of seniors.
"The game and the stage was a little too big for some of our girls," Ironwood Ridge coach Sean Watkins said.
"Foothills is a great team, and they deserve what they got today."