Winning one state championship in soccer is tough.
At Catalina Foothills, varsity soccer coach Charlie Kendrick is attempting to do something unheard of in Southern Arizona: five state championships in five years.
Kendrick, now in his 11th season at Foothills, watched his 2010 and 2011 teams both win the Class 4A-I state title. The Falcons have won the last two Division II state championships, beating Glendale Apollo High School 3-0 last February to secure their fourth straight trophy.
With a roster that features an imposing blend of talent and experience, Foothills is seeking a fifth title in 2014. The Falcons had won 11 straight games heading into Thursday night’s tilt against Casa Grande and could be the No. 1 seed for the state tournament beginning next week.
Here is a look at how the Falcons were able to continue their dominance this season.
With 12 seniors returning, this year’s team set a goal early on of continuing the championship streak. They do not want to be known as the group that failed to be the final team standing.
“Every year we lose players that it seems you’re never going to be able to replace,” Kendrick said. “Kids just step in and fill those shoes.”
Two seniors stepping up in a big way are forwards Aminah Settles and Aleah Strength. Settles came into Thursday’s season finale with a team-high 24 goals. Strength is right behind her with 22 goals following her two-score performance on Tuesday night.
ATTACKING WITH SPEED
Speed is perhaps the biggest strength of this year’s team. When the Falcons are really clicking, they play as fast as any team Kendrick has ever coached. A five-goals-per-game average is evidence of just how quickly they can attack on the pitch.
The Falcons also play a more possession-oriented game than most. Combine the speed and possession elements with strong play at goalkeeper from junior Sam Weisband, and they will head into the Division II playoffs as one of the favorites.
FOCUSED UNDER PRESSURE
There’s a downside to the Falcons’ success: Every opposing team wants to knock off the four-time defending champs.
“We try to focus on one game at a time,” Kendrick said. “Don’t circle any opponents down the road.”
When Kendrick gives the state playoff schedule to his Falcons, he often removes the rest of the bracket to avoid overlooking an opponent.
“That’s the best compliment we can give anybody we play,” he said.