The Pima Community College men's soccer team (18-3-1) were in an intense battle for the Region I, Division I Championship on Saturday at Kino North Stadium but the Aztecs overcame and rallied in the end.
The No. 2 seeded Aztecs defeated No. 5 Phoenix College (12-10-1) 3-1 to win their third straight Region I, Division I Championship also upending the Bears for the third straight year in the title game.
After a scoreless back-and-forth first half where neither team gained an upper hand, the Bears struck first with a goal by O Kar Shar in the 51st minute.
The Aztecs got a jolt after that as freshman Gavino Carranza (Salpointe Catholic HS) tied the game in the 54th minute when he scored on a free kick shot.
Freshman Julian Gaona (Tucson Magnet HS) put the Aztecs ahead for good two minutes later when he scored from the top right corner after a pass from sophomore Justin Stoermer (Mountain View HS). Freshman AJ Valenzuela (Desert View HS) scored one more insurance goal with a shot to the left side of the goalkeeper after an assist from Lorenzo Rodriguez in the 80th minute.
Sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Anderson (Salpointe Catholic HS) finished the game with three saves.
With their third straight region title, the Aztecs have won more consecutive titles than any other team in the ACCAC conference except for Yavapai College.
"Phoenix College had a fantastic week of playoffs and are very well coached (by Dave Cameron)," Pima coach David Cosgrove said. "We weren't unbelievable and they put pressure on us (with the first goal) but it came down to our character, belief, confidence and experience. We raised it to another physical level and grinded."
"After they (Phoenix College) beat us 4-0 and we lost to Yavapai College (2-0), lots of people gave up on our team. We weren't playing well and people outside our team thought we wouldn't recover. I took that personally because we have a track record of not giving up and that's what the coaches preach."
Carranza was named the Most Valuable Player for the championship game.
The Aztecs await the destination and their opponent in the West District tournament. Details to come.
Pima goals: Carranza 54th minute; Gaona (Stoermer) 56th minute; Valenzuela (Rodriguez) 80th.
Gavino Carranza/Photo by Ben Carbajal