WILLCOX — A soccer program that has reached the postseason in 15 out of 16 years is in danger of missing once more after a tough week last week.
The Willcox varsity ping-ponged through the power rankings in the last week, rising from No. 8 to a peak of No. 3 on Wednesday after defeating Bisbee 3-2 on Tuesday, then falling to No. 7 after losing the rematch with Bisbee 3-0 on Thursday. Their non-region 4-1 loss to No. 8 Camp Verde on Saturday in Camp Verde has dropped Willcox to No. 9. Only the top eight teams will advance to the postseason.
“I told them to keep their heads up and keep on working and practicing and we’ll see what happens here in the next two weeks with the other teams and we’ll hopefully win our last one,” first-year head coach Juan Rodriguez said.
The Cowboys hung tough at Camp Verde after giving up a goal in the first ten minutes and falling behind 2-0 by halftime. Junior striker Eulises Lara put the Cowboys back in the game with a goal in the 58th minute to make it 2-1, but the hosts answered with insurance goals in the 68th and 75th minutes.
“We had to play hurt,” Rodriguez said. “It’s part of how you have to play the game sometimes, but three games in one week against the toughest competition is too much.”
Winning a state championship, however, would require running the same kind of gauntlet, as they play three games in one week. Right now Willcox is still hoping just to qualify for that tournament.
There is a caveat from the Arizona Interscholastic Association this week. Perhaps due to COVID-19 schedule anomalies, they have stated.
“The soccer rankings for the 2A conference are for informational purposes. The 2A conference will determine the teams and placement of teams into the 2A post season tournament.”
This is a departure from previous seasons that used the rankings as a final arbiter to qualify region runner-ups for the eight team state tournament
Currently, Willcox plays one less region game than Bisbee, a team they should tie for first place in the South if all things were equal. Perhaps the AIA would look at taking both if they finish with the same amount of losses after splitting their regular season meetings.
“Hopefully everybody will be rested up, though, for the Benson game and you’ll see a different team,” Rodriguez said.
Willcox closes out their regular season on Tuesday at Benson High School.