DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Gators preparing for another soccer challenge

The Xavier Prep soccer team has had only a few preseason practices, but coach Barb Chura says she will have a team capable of challenging for a Division I state championship.
“There are a lot of tough teams out there, but if things fall into place and we stay healthy, we have a chance,’’ she said.
You never know what is going to happen, as the Gators found out last season when they fell to Chandler High in the first round of the state tournament. Now the team is starting fresh.
“We have about 25 kids on the team. We have a good mix, oldest to youngest,’’ Chura said. “The important thing is, who are our leaders going to be? Usually it is the older kids. We’ve seen signs of it, and hopefully we are going to see more of that as the preseason and regular season evolve.’’
Xavier has a preseason scrimmage at its Petznick Field home on Thursday (Nov. 19) at 4 p.m. against Gilbert Perry. The regular season begins Dec. 1 at home against Scottsdale Desert Mountain.
There is a certain way Chura wants her players to play “Xavier soccer.’’ That includes strong fundamentals on the field and camaraderie on and off it.
“I’ve been here for 13 years, and the strength of the program has been there for a very long time. We need to keep that going,’’ she said.
One of the top players for the Gators is expected to be sophomore goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann, who saw quite a bit of time as a freshman. She appears to be athletic and can dive and extend in a number of directions to keep the ball out of the net.
In front of Ehmann is the Gators’ last line of defense, and Chura said that might take some time to develop.
The midfield area will be Xavier’s strength, Chura said.
Start with junior Natalie Duque and add senior Sarah Khoilian. Senior Lex Allard is back after sitting out last year to play club soccer. And keep an eye on freshman Emily Chiao, who could wind up playing a significant role.
A handful of other freshmen also might fit that description. They are forward Kyla Ferry, forward Lindsay Hubbard and midfielder/forward Sadie Wintergalen.
Sophomore Abby Hubbard and junior Quiqui Hita will be counted on to put points on the board from the forward spot.

Xavier varsity roster – 2015-16
Coach – Barb  Chura. Assistant – Rafael Rios. Managers – senior Emillie Castrichini, senior Jessie Basile.
Players – Kinsey Ehmann (soph GK), Nika Gorski (soph D/F), Abby Hubbard (soph F), Mady Chait (soph MF/F), Emily Chiao (frosh MF), Madie Amavilah (jr MF/D), Mandi Grifol (sr D), Natalie Duque (jr MF), Quiqui Hita (jr F), Lex Allard (sr MF), Madeline Warren (soph D), Kyla Ferry (fr F), McKenna Soha (sr MF).
Amanda Koepke (sr D), Elena Zurek (jr D), Kaity Ward (soph D), Sarah Khoilian (sr MF), Hannah Paynter (sr D/F), Lindsay Hubbard (fr F), Nicole Hook (soph F/D), Katie Moore (jr D), Olivia Chan (jr D), Hannah Hale (soph MF/F), Jackie Tait (sr MF/F), Sadie Wintergalen (fr MF/F).

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