There were thick dark clouds hovering near the lacrosse field at Arizona State University West on Monday (May 4) and the start of Xavier Prep’s first-round state-tournament match against Phoenix Horizon was delayed by lightning in the area.
The Gators were looking for a silver lining in those clouds. Their top player, senior Areta Buness, was ill and it appeared that she might not be able to play despite being in uniform.
Some of her teammates were going to have to step up to help fill the void. Buness eventually did play, but clearly was at less than 100 percent.
Her teammates came through with inspired play at both ends of the field and Buness managed to contribute a pair of goals as Xavier stayed alive with an 11-10 victory over the Huskies in a contest that was back and forth most of the way.
Third-seeded Xavier advances to the semifinals on Wednesday (May 6) at ASU West with a 5:15 p.m. start against second-seeded Phoenix Pinnacle. Xavier and Pinnacle split their two-game regular-season series. Horizon was the sixth seed.
A key defensive play by Caitlin Blomo helped set up the go-ahead goal against Horizon with 7:22 left in regulation and Buness scored with 5:57 left to make it 11-9. Horizon scored with 3:50 left, but goalie Michelle Valenzuela and the Gators kept the Huskies from putting the ball in the net again and held on.
Blomo intercepted an outlet pass by the Horizon goalie and set up Kayla Swanson’s goal to make it 10-9.
“We needed that (defensive play),’’ said Xavier coach Caitlin Bebout, a former player at Horizon. “We felt that if we were going to win that we needed to get some interceptions.’’
Although Xavier had won both meetings against Horizon this season, Bebout knew the Huskies would come in ready to play.
“They are always a good playoff team. They upset the No. 1 team in last year’s tournament,’’ she said.
Swanson and Buness each had two goals, but it was Katie Hobaica and Caylie Wagner who provided much of the offensive spark.
Hobaica scored four goals, Wagner three.
After the game, Buness was physically and emotionally drained. She wept.
Bebout said it was more out of joy, “that her teammates came out and showed their support of her in an important game, that we were able to win.’’