Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Quiqui, Gators quench their soccer thirst



Xavier Prep soccer star Quiqui Hita began to run down the field in front of her team’s bench.
“Quiqui, do you want some water?’’ a teammate asked the senior.
Hita thought for a split second, then came over to quench her thirst with a few quick sips to combat the warm afternoon sun.
Not long after, she quenched her thirst again, this time for a state championship as the Gators defeated Phoenix Desert Vista 2-0 for the 6A Conference title at Gilbert Campo Verde High on Saturday (Feb. 11).
It was the ninth big-school title in Xavier history and fourth under coach Barb Chura. Xavier, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, finished at 14-2-3. Defending state champion Desert Vista, the No. 5 seed, finished 22-4-1. Xavier and Desert Vista battled to a 1-1 overtime tie at XCP on Jan. 23.

Xavier soccer coach Barb Chura (blue jacket) and her players celebrate. (Photos by Don Ketchum).
 After a scoreless first half, Hita broke the ice on a goal with 34:14 left in the second half. Xavier picked up an important insurance goal with 26:24 to go on a laser shot by sophomore Kyla Ferry, the team’s leading scorer. It was Ferry’s 20th goal of the season. Hita’s tally was her 11th.
And junior goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann and her defensive mates kept Desert Vista off the board.
The shutout was kept alive late in the game when junior Abby Hubbard, normally a force on offense, booted the ball from in front of the goal and out of harm’s way.
Chura urged her players on as the clock became Xavier’s ally.
“Give it everything you have, everything you’ve got,’’ she yelled.
Blue-and-white-clad Xavier fans counted down the final seconds, and then it was official. Chura hugged assistant coach Rafael Rios and the Gators hoisted the title trophy presented by an Arizona Interscholastic Association representative.

Xavier Prep's Gators raise the 6A Conference soccer championship trophy.

 “It feels great,’’ Chura said. “We felt good about our chances against (Gilbert) Perry in the semifinals (on Wednesday night, Feb. 8) and again today, especially after that first goal.
“There may have been some (Xavier) teams that were more talented, but the girls this year were team players, from 1 to 22 (on the roster). It was a special year.’’
Chura felt particularly happy for Hita, who began varsity play as a freshman a year after Xavier’s previous title in 2013, also against Desert Vista.
“If anyone bleeds Xavier blue, it’s her,’’ Chura said. “She has given everything to the program. She was so happy to get to the final, but I knew she really wanted to win.’’
Xavier probably did not control the ball as much as Desert Vista, especially in the first half, but Chura preached patience.
“Desert Vista can psych you out, wear you down when you don’t have the ball a lot,’’ she said.
Xavier got its first break when a Gator player sent the ball toward the goal from the corner. Hita said Ferry made contact with the ball and it slipped down through her legs. Hita saw it and put the ball into the net with her left foot.
“This feels really good. I can’t really describe it,’’ Hita said.
She suffered what appeared might be serious injury late in the game, but it was not. It just stunned her a bit.
After the match, she pointed to her left knee that had two red abrasions (strawberries) created from friction along Campo Verde’s artificial turf.
“I got them against Perry the other night (the semi also was at Campo Verde) and they kind of opened back up. I think the coaches might have wanted to take me out, but I wanted to stay in there and finish out my career,’’ said Hita, who recently signed a letter of intent to study and play at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
Ferry is difficult enough for opponents to stop under normal circumstances, but not coming out to contest her near the front of the goal right away was not a wise decision.
Asked if she was surprised, Ferry said, “I was a little bit. They gave me so much space.
“This feels absolutely amazing, after all the work we put in this year.’’

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