Establishing itself as one of the top NJCAA programs out west, the Lady Matador Soccer team impressed many with its third straight appearance in the Region I Final.
A mostly new roster flanked just two returners from a historic squad, as Vera Asare and Elizabeth Ephraim etched their names into the Matador record books.
New faces also made an impact on the program with Yuma natives Karen Rivas, the Yuma Sun’s Athlete of the Year during her senior season as Kofa, and Midfielder Eliani Neri from Cibola were relied upon contributors all season.
It took the season’s opening trip to Henderson, Nevada for the group comprised of almost exclusively of freshmen to gel together as the Matadors returned to Yuma at 0-2 after shutout losses to Southern Nevada and the Utah State Eastern.
The return home saw the Matadors first goal of the season, as Tyra McKenzie’s long strike in the 81st minute would produce overtime, before ultimately coming to a draw with Paradise Valley.
That was enough to rev up the offense, however, as Arizona Western unloaded three games worth of offense in a 12-0 rout of South Mountain. It was a coming out party for Rivas, as the freshman waited until game four to score her first four collegiate goals including the capping goal in the 88th minute.
The Lady Matadors packed up the offense to travel and unloaded seven more goals in a shutout over GateWay. It was the second consecutive clean sheet for freshman keeper Melanie Yanez and the Matadors worked their way back to .500 on the young season.
Rivas struck again in the Mats 7-1 win over Glendale, but it was Asare’s turn for a hat trick as the sophomore added an assist to account for over half of the Matadors offense in their third straight win.
Arizona Western played a different game over the next couple weeks edging out Phoenix on Ephraim’s golden goal, before battling to another 1-1 draw with Paradise Valley this time to open up conference play.
The Lady Matadors tight roped again in a much different win over South Mountain 3-1 in conference road match.
A return home against GateWay saw the Matador offense find the net in bunches again as Raheal Aka-Ety’s hat trick flanked by Ephraim’s two goals and assist garnered the Matadors their eighth straight unbeaten match.
The Matadors piled up twelve more goals in the conference Match against Glendale. And pulled out a 2-0 victory back in Yuma over Phoenix.
But the Mats 10 match unbeaten streak came to an end against Chandler-Gilbert in Yuma handing AWC its first conference loss 4-0.
But the Lady Matadors bounced back with a 2-1 win over Mesa on the road.
The Mats battled to a scoreless draw with Cochise in what would become a preview of the Region I Semi-final, in a conference game on Sophomore day.
A loss to Scottsdale on the road preceded a win over Pima in Tucson to close out the regular season.
That set up a series of potential rematches in the post-season for the Matadors as the third seed in the Region I playoffs
The Matadors got their home playoff game against Pima just days after the teams closed the regular season. McKenzie’s long-range goal proved to be the difference sending the Mats to the semi-final at top seeded Cochise.
AWC pulled off the upset when Linda Obare’ s penalty kick in the 61st minute provided the difference sending the Mats to the Region I Final for the third consecutive year.
But the season came to an end just seconds away from penalty kicks as Paradise Valley used a set piece to advance on the narrowest of margins in overtime 1-0, ending another amazing ride for the Lady Matadors.
Four Matadors received All-Conference Recognition as local freshmen Rivas and Neri put together honorable first years in Yuma. Sophomores Asare and Ephraim punctuated their historic careers in Yuma.
Asare completes a historic two years in Yuma and will leave among the leaders in goals at Arizona Western and signed to continue her career with NCAA Division I Oakland University in December and will take the field in Michigan this fall.
Head Coach Nicole Acosta also left the program in December after guiding the Matadors to 33 wins in two seasons.
On February 18th, Ivan Dizdar was introduced as the 5th Head Coach in the history of Matador Women’s Soccer, inheriting a program that continues to hit new levels of excellence on an annual basis.