PHOENIX - Canyon del Oro's softball team has been in this position before and coach Stephanie Nicholson can only hope her team can handle it again.
The second-seeded Dorados and two-time defending state champions lost 4-0 to No. 7 Phoenix Greenway on Wednesday and now they will have to climb through the elimination bracket of the Division II state tournament for the second year in a row.
"Now that we have our backs against the wall, it gives them something to fight for" Nicholson said. "Sometimes it takes a loss to win it all. It's kind of a wake up call."
The Dorados (29-5) will face No. 3 Glendale Kellis on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at Rose Mofford Sports Complex, the same site as Wednesday's loss, which was their first against a Division II team this year.
"If anything, it was a good loss to have at this point instead of in two weeks," junior catcher Samantha Nettling said.
CDO didn't get a runner on base until the third inning and didn't get a hit until the fourth when Dominique Gonzalez hit a ground-rule double to center field.
Senior pitcher Alexis Alfonso threw all seven innings, giving up six hits and striking out eight in her second start in as many days.
"I was getting a little weaker but I had to pitch through it for my team," Alfonso said. "The last out I got I was hoping we could get some hits but unfortunately we didn't."
Entering the final inning, the Dorados were down 2-0 and appeared to be on the brink of breaking through, but instead the Demons opened up with two straight singles and CDO committed back-to-back errors to give up two runs. Greenway also loaded the bases, but Alfonso got out of the jam when Kaelene Zwar flied out to left to end the inning.
CDO junior Makenzie Sullivan led off the bottom of the seventh with a single but Greenway starter Madison Creed retired three in row to end the game.
Nicholson said her squad has had its share of defensive struggles in the second half of the season but she said now is the time to clean it up because perfection can lead to wins.
"Our defense needs to clean up and we need to start hitting more and we'll be fine," Alfonso said.
Second-seeded Cienega loses in Division I action
No. 10 Mesa Desert Ridge snapped second-seeded Cienega's eight-game winning streak with a 2-1 win Wednesday night in the third round of the Division I state tournament.
The Bobcats had a couple of chances to tie the game in the final inning but couldn't produce timely hitting.
Sophomore Bailey Pavelich led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a ground-rule double but ended up stranded at third. One inning later, senior A.J. Hervey singled and stole second with two outs but was stranded when Makena Brawley struck out swinging to end the game.
"They got the hits when they needed it and we didn't," Cienega coach Eric Tatham said. "We didn't get the right hits at the right time. They didn't come today at the right time."
The Bobcats (26-4) will face No. 14 Scottsdale Chaparral on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in Phoenix.