The long-awaited season finales were worth the wait for both Pusch Ridge soccer teams, which hosted Safford teams on Saturday.
The contests, moved ahead after Thursday's rains, were also senior appreciation day. Both Lion teams were hoping to win, and gain high seeds in this week's state tournament.
Both squads prevailed.
The girls won handily, 4-0, behind Chelsea Ruland's hat trick. Pusch Ridge ultimately earned the #2 seed and a first-round bye. The Lions play the winner of #7 Northwest Christian and #10 St. Gregory's this Saturday at Red Mountain Park in Mesa.
The boys beat Safford 2-1, with Matt Horrigan scoring twice. Pusch Ridge earned the #1 seed, and was scheduled to play #16 Tanque Verde at Red Mountain Park on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
Ruland finished the year as the leading scorer in Southern Arizona with 41 goals. Briana Simpson of Sahuaro was second with 26. Marana's Ashley Willoughby was third, and Mountain View's Justene Kesterson fourth.
"I've got to give it to the whole team," Ruland said. "If we keep playing as a team, playing aggressive, we can pull it off."
Ruland opened the scoring in the fourth minute to give the Lions an early 1-0 lead.
The Lions had an early flurry, as they came out firing. They nailed five shots on goal in the first 10 minutes, while the Bulldogs, who had four shots all day, didn't manage a shot on goal until the 15th minute.
Safford goalkeeper Sabrina Montano had eight saves to keep Safford in the game. Then, Ruland got loose on a breakaway, and scored in the 37th minute, giving the Lions a 2-0 halftime lead.
In the 58th minute, Ruland put the game away with an unbelievable shot. After taking a pass from Brennan Smith, Ruland initiated contact with the defender, started falling down, and then kicked the ball before going to the ground. The ball rolled and rolled, and then found the left side of the net for the third goal.
Cortney Beadle scored the final goal for Pusch Ridge in the 69th minute, following assists from Anna Hagberg and Neely Roessler.
"I thought we played very well," said coach Bob Coate. "We have a solid defense. They did a good job."
The Lions finished the year unbeaten in region.
"I felt like we had the team that could do it," Coate said. "We had a good run last year."
Coate's other team, the Pusch Ridge boys, wrapped up the #1 seed later Saturday.
Matt Horrigan scored in the fourth minute with a long kick that flew high into the net for the Lions first goal, and the game's only goal before halftime.
Horrigan scored again in the 47th minute on an assist from Mitch Woody to give the Lions a 2-0 lead.
Horrigan finished the regular season with 15 goals and 16 assists. Woody had 19 goals and 15 assists. The team's leading scorer was Chad Springetti with 22 goals.
"Safford was probably the best team we played all year," Coate said.