Gilbert Perry’s soccer team was looking for some payback against Xavier Prep in Wednesday night’s (Feb. 8) 6A Conference semifinal at Gilbert Campo Verde. The Pumas had lost to the Gators 1-0 on Jan. 19 when a corner kick by Xavier bounced off a Perry player’s head about halfway through the second half.
There was no payback this time as Xavier combined an early first-half goal with a second-half score on a penalty kick to advance to Saturday’s state championship match with a 2-0 triumph.
The opponent in the finale will be defending big-school champion Phoenix Desert Vista. The Thunder defeated Tempe District rival Tempe Corona del Sol 2-0 to advance.
Xavier battled to a 1-1 overtime tie with Desert Vista on Jan. 23 at Xavier. The second-seeded Gators (14-2-3) and fifth-seeded Thunder (22-3-1) will resume their rivalry at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 11) at Campo Verde. Sixth-seeded Perry finished 21-3-1.
“Desert Vista will be the best team we have played all year outside of the Excalibur tournament,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura, referring to the annual holiday competition in California.
Against Perry, Xavier kept the ball on the Pumas’ side of the field for most of the first half, then turned up the defense in the second half as Perry attempted a comeback.
Just four minutes into the first half, senior Quiqui Hita emerged with control of the ball after a scramble and zipped the ball past the Perry goalkeeper from the right side for a 1-0 lead.
The score remained that way until 17:56 remained in the second half. The Perry goalkeeper was called for a penalty after becoming tangled up with the Gators senior Maddie Amavilah. Sophomore Kyla Ferry, XCP’s leading scorer this season, was right on the mark with her penalty kick to increase the Gators’ advantage to 2-0.
The Perry bench voiced its displeasure with the call to no avail. The Pumas were hit with a yellow card shortly thereafter.
“They (Perry) are probably saying that the goalie had possession (of the ball), but I don’t think she did,’’ Chura said.
Led by junior Nicole Hook, the Gators protected their goalkeeper, junior Kinsey Ehmann. Hook headed or booted the ball out of the line of fire on numerous occasions.
“Nicole has done that all year,’’ Chura said. “She’s strong and she’s tall and she reads the game well.’’
Ehmann did a good job rising up to stop a couple of Perry shots that looked like they might float over her head and into the net.