Aztec women make national tourney; FC Tucson's Lapsley credits backups
Sawatzky proud of old team's performance
Pima Aztecs 2 (Kopach 20, Buntin 66) - Mesa Thunderbirds 0
The Pima Community College women's soccer team is heading back to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament.
The No. 2-seeded Aztecs shut out No. 4 Mesa Community College 2-0 on Saturday to claim their first NJCAA Region I, Division II Championship since 2015.
The Aztecs got on the scoreboard in the 20th minute when sophomore Alyssa Kopach scored with an assist from freshman Caitlyn Maher. Midfielder Delaney Buntin extended the lead in minute 66 off of a deflection.
"We knew Mesa was going to come in hard because the last time we played them it was 3-2 (Pima win) and they're coming off beating the No. 1 ranked team (Phoenix College) so we knew it wasn't going to be easy," goalkeeper Angelina Amparano said. "We got it done, it was the hardest time we've played them because they really wanted it also."
It was the ninth shutout of the season for the Aztecs.
The Aztecs will play at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament held at the Stryker Complex in Wichita, Kansas, from Nov. 15-20.
Goalkeeper Wallis Lapsley has played every minute of every match during the 2021 FC Tucson regular season. With no U.S. Open Cup play and no exhibition matches, this hasn’t left any field time for his two backups, Cornell University standout Ryan Shellow and former Memphis 901 FC netminder Jim Barkei.
Despite their not having featured in a match, Lapsley gives the two understudies credit for his performances.
“I think that the success we have had and the success I have had would not be possible without Ryan Shellow and, in the last month and a half, Jim Barkei,” he said. “They are both really great professionals and players. The opportunity I have every day to work with them and learn from them, pick their brains about what they are seeing from the opposition...pushing me to keep a high level in training, I can’t speak to that enough.”
“Me being the person to have the opportunity (to play), I never take that for granted,” he added. “I want to give those guys the credit they deserve.”
Darren Sawatzky’s first priority over the next week is to coach his team, Richmond Kickers, to a victory over FC Tucson on Saturday (7 p.m. at Kino North Stadium). Still, he is letting a bit of his attention go elsewhere.
Sawatzky, who also was head coach for FC Tucson in 2019, played for the New England Revolution for the first two years of the team’s existence. He scored five goals for the club and had a major role in the famous “Curse of Caricola” match against the MetroStars. After leaving the Revs, he played for a number of MLS teams and lower division sides before hanging up his boots in 2004.
New England was, to put it bluntly, not a great team in his time playing for them, and have often struggled in the years since. This season, however, under legendary coach Bruce Arena, they have 73 points, the most any team has earned in a single season (and the season isn’t over yet).
Sawatzky still keeps in touch with his old team and is proud of what they’ve done this year.
“I’m friends with the guys there. It’s my team. It’s my MLS team,” he said. “When we play their ‘two’ team, I don’t want to root for them. Outside of that, I’m really, really happy. Boston and the New England area in general deserves what’s happening there right now.”