On a warm, sunny January afternoon, Xavier senior Tessa Zaccagnio maintained a sunny disposition even though her body was bruised after 90 minutes of physical soccer.
The forward had just played what probably was the best by an individual XCP player this season as the Gators outlasted visiting Flagstaff High 4-2 at Petznick Field.
She scored twice and kept the ball moving near the Flagstaff goal, and survived a charging hit by the Flagstaff goalkeeper in the first half that had Zaccagnio spinning around in mid-air before coming back to Earth.
“My teammates were telling me I looked like an ice skater (during a routine),’’ she said.
Xavier coach Barb Chura thought the goalkeeper should have been red-carded and removed from the game, but the player remained.
Shortly thereafter, fate intervened when the goalkeeper came out a bit too far and collided with a teammate. The ball rolled away and Zaccagnio was right there in front of the goal and put the ball in for a 1-0 lead with 23:42 left in the first half.
The game was stopped and the goalkeeper was tended to by Xavier trainer Laurie White. The goalkeeper left the contest with an injury to her nose, and left a big spot of blood on the artificial turf. Xavier staff quickly took care of the issue with a bottle of cleaner and a towel.
Senior Aida Zerabruk gave the Gators a 2-0 lead with a goal at the 20:45 mark. And junior Sarah Khoilian made it 3-0 on a goal with 13:09 left.
Division II Flagstaff finally broke the ice with a goal by Shelbie O’Connor with 32:27 left in regulation. O’Connor, who had scored four goals in a recent game, came back with another to make it 3-2 with 21:15 left.
Zaccagnio came to the rescue, giving Xavier some more breathing room with her second goal off a high bouncer with 19:38 left. A few minutes later, Zaccagnio nearly recorded a third goal on a high kick, but the ball bounced off the crossbar and over the goal.
“We knew it going into the game that Flagstaff would be a tough team. At halftime, we talked about the fact that they weren’t going to go away,’’ Chura said. “In their second goal, we didn’t close (on the ball) like we should have.’’
Flagstaff looked to be every bit as formidable as Division I Phoenix Desert Vista did on Wednesday (Jan. 7) when it fell 2-0 to the Gators. Flagstaff tied Xavier a year ago.
“We are never not going to respect an opponent,’’ Chura said. “If you don’t respect them, that is when you can get in trouble.’’
The Gators (8-1) return to action on Monday (Jan. 12) with a contest at Mesa High, starting at 6 p.m.