GILBERT - The nerves were present, and the expectations were high.
By the second half, Catalina Foothills fans didn't have to worry.
"It's an amazing accomplishment because it is something that can never be beaten, can only be equaled," coach Charlie Kendrick said.
Four straight. Four-peat. However you want to slice it, the Falcons completed the ultimate high school goal.
"I'm still pretty much in shock right now," said senior Laura DeMers, the Catalina Foothills goalkeeper after her team's 3-0 victory Saturday over Glendale Apollo in the Division II girls soccer state championship at Campo Verde. "There were a lot of people who doubted us this season. And at the end of the day, since we got it done, it means that much more."
It took a half for the third-seeded Falcons (22-3-2) to get full control. But once Foothills got its game in gear, it dominated possession and got two solid goals after a lucky bounce put the Falcons on the board in the first half.
For DeMers and a handful of other four-year varsity members it was the cap of a career that any prepster would covet - four state titles.
"Nobody can ever beat a four-peat," said sophomore Emily Parker, who scored twice Saturday. "No class can because you are not in high school for five years! So we really wanted to make sure if not the first than they were one of the ones to do it. It was awesome to send them out on this note."
Still, it wasn't as easy as previous years for Foothills, which has won eight championships in 11 years in various designations (4A, 4A-I, Division II).
"It took a while to get our momentum we were all so nervous. I was so nervous," Parker said. "They did a good job of not letting us get in, but it was just a matter of time before we got our momentum and started to pass and get shots off."
In the first half, fourth-seeded Apollo - which has a 38-goal scorer in Daniela Fonseca - put some pressure on DeMers but the defense held.
"The first half, both teams you could see were playing with a lot of emotion," DeMers said. "Apollo came out strong, from the last time we played them, almost like a new team. For us, it was more a matter that we were kind of nervous. Going for a fourth state championship, obviously you are going to be nervous."
In the second half, Apollo (20-2) had few real chances, and Foothills kept the ball on the Hawks side of the field.
"The best thing is that we settled down and played and showed what we were capable of," Kendrick said. "Whether we win or lose the game, that was the best we played - in the second half - all tournament long. So it was nice to actually showcase what our players are capable of."
In the 52nd minute, Maddie Parker's corner found Aminah Settles at the mouth of the goal, and Settles headed it past goalkeeper Mariah Perez for Foothills' second goal.
In the 62nd minute, Emily Parker scored her 21st goal of the season with a nice shot into the far right corner, well out of the reach of Perez.
Parker was credited with the opener for Foothills after the ball bounced around off a corner kick by Maddie Parker and the ball trickled past the line in the 26th minute.
Emily Parker said Shelby Tober headed the ball off the corner.
"Shelby headed it in, and the (Apollo) girl used her head, and it was in the goal," Emily Parker said. "It looked like I got it, but it was all Shelby."
The Falcons marked Fonseca and settled down after a nervous first half.
"In the second half, we settled down, and the confidence, I thought we did well," DeMers said. "It was what I wanted to end on."
The Hawks, whose only two losses this season were to Foothills, never got any real rhythm or attack going all afternoon.
"I think the first half was very competitive," Kendrick said. "They played hard to the very end. I think in the second half, we settled down a little bit, passed the ball a little bit better. We made a couple of changes in the midfield. I think that's why we were able to take such control in the second half."
On StarNet: See more from Saturday's state soccer title games at azstarnet.com/gallery