Donny Toia held the trophy aloft and let out a yell when the Canyon Del Oro Dorados won their second straight 4A-I soccer state title.
And why not.
Toia scored all four of his team’s goals in a 4-1 win over Sahuaro last Friday, capping a season and playoff run that included two hat tricks of at least three goals in a game.
Toia’s initial goal came on a header in the 10th minute, aided by an assist from Caleb Cristia to give CDO an early lead. Cristia fed Toia for another goal in the 27th minute to make it 2-0.
The Dorados finished the year with a 24-2 record and a 22-game winning streak.
“It was insane,” Toia said. “It was a lot harder than last year.”
Almost forgotten was the slow start by CDO, which began the campaign 2-2.
“We lost 14 guys from last year’s team,” said coach Josh Marshall. “We made some adjustments on defense. Kyle Cornell shut things down.” And freshman goalie Josh King proved himself to be a championship-caliber net-minder, giving up only four goals in four playoff starts.
After the slow start, and with all the new faces, did Marshall really believe this team could repeat as state champions?
“When you have players like Toia,” Marshall said. “It is realistic. The two losses were an eye-opener.”
Toia was Southern Arizona’s leading scorer with 36 goals. He also added 15 assists.
“ESPN covered him in April,” Marshall said. “He’s a leader off the field and on. Toia deserves to be Player of the Year for sure.”
After a few narrow wins, the Dorados could be excused for not thinking the game was over at 2-0.
“This year we’ve had a few close ones,” Marshall said. “Sahuaro is a great team.
Toia struck again with eight minutes left in the half, as Ben Don got the assist. This was the first time the Dorados had enjoyed a three-goal lead in the playoffs. Then, with just two minutes left in the half, Toia was set up by Alex Abby and Stefan Nieth for his fourth goal and a 4-0 halftime lead.
“This was by far our best game in the playoffs,” Toia said.
Cristia had two assists, and possibly the Dorados’ best shot on goal in the second half, as it required a diving stop by the Sahuaro goalkeeper.
“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Cristia said. “Coming here and making a statement.
“Our defense deserves a lot of credit. I couldn’t ask for a better game.”
Two days earlier, the Dorados sloshed through a rain-filled first half in a 2-0 win over #4-ranked Glendale Apollo to earn their berth in the championship game. Toia’s goal in the 69th minute gave the Dorados a 2-0 lead.
Cristia scored the game’s first goal on a rebound shot in the 12th minute. He also assisted on Toia’s goal.
“It was definitely a physical game,” Cristia said. “We were winning headers.”
As much as anything else, the defense was again responsible for the win. Midway through the second half, King made a diving save to protect what was then a one-goal lead.
“That ball may have been deflected by our own guy,” admitted Marshall. “Anytime you get a save like that it’s big.”
Kyle Cornell was assigned to guard Apollo’s leading scorer, Jovanni Villalvazo, who had 26 goals and 23 assists. Villalvazo did not score. According to Marshall, he didn’t even get a shot off.
“Our center Spencer Cadden was also solid defensively.”