Keakalina Barnes

Millennium High School’s Keakalina Barnes, No. 28, dribbles past an opposing defender at a game against Coronado High School in Scottsdale on February 20. (West Valley View photo by Pablo Robles)

Vying for its first state title, the Millennium High School girls’ soccer team was blanked in the 5A State Championship game, falling 1-0 to the Campo Verde Coyotes on February 20 at Coronado High School.

The five-seeded Coyotes scored their lone goal in the opening minutes of the first half, when junior Karisma Hansen placed senior Mia Duranczyk’s cross into the top corner of the net via a header.

For the remainder of the first half, the often-dominant Tigers’ offense – a unit that scored 141 goals this season – hardly looked the part. Six-seeded Millennium spent much of the first half defending its own zone instead of creating opportunities at the other end.

“Everyone was so nervous in the first half, I couldn’t wait to get to halftime to get them to rethink things,” head coach David Cameron said. “First half was definitely different; it was like a deer-in-the-headlights, jitters type of thing.”

Cameron laid out a revised game plan for the second half, which allowed Millennium to come within several chances to net the equalizer.

In the remaining 25 minutes of the game, the Tigers started to piece possessions together.

Their best chance of the night came in the 63-minute mark, when a shot on goal missed wide left by inches. From a distance, it appeared the ball did find the back of the net, prompting the Millennium crowd to erupt. But it was quickly waved off by the officials, a punch in the gut after what appeared to knot the game at one apiece.

Senior Kiana Miyazato, who spent a majority of the night in the Tigers’ backfield, was bumped up to a forward position in the final 15 minutes. Cameron wished Miyazato, who scored 17 times this year, would revive the Millennium offense in the waning minutes of its season.

The offense quickly became centralized around the workhorse Miyazato, but it was to no avail. The Tigers were shut out for just the third time this season, erasing a nine-game win streak dating back to mid-January.

“We weren’t playing like ourselves,” Miyazato said. “Their defense was pretty good. We had trouble combining like we usually do. This was definitely an off game.”

Paired with an uncharacteristically stagnant offense, the Tigers also grappled with one of the best defensive teams in the state, as Campo Verde was relentless all night versus Millennium.

The Coyotes allowed just 17 goals in 24 games this season. Thirteen of their 17 wins were of the shut-out variety.

Despite falling just short, the Tigers still made school history by advancing to the title game. They rounded out the year at 21-2-1, as their 21 wins in a single season are now the most in program history.

And as the Tigers’ skipper met with reporters postgame, Queen’s “We Are The Champions” boomed overhead the speaker system. Campo Verde celebrated with its home crowd, parading its new trophy some 50 yards away from Cameron. It was a sore realization that one team would be going home with the state title, just not the one he was hoping for.

“Honestly, I’m so proud of everyone,” Miyazato said. “I love (my teammates) so much. I don’t want to leave them.”