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.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Soccer season nears for defending champ Gators

By the time Xavier Prep begins its 2017-18 soccer season on Dec. 4, the school’s basketball team already will have played seven games.

But that’s OK. Good things are worth waiting for.

The defending state champion Gators open up at home against Gilbert High.

Xavier coach Barb Chura will be interested to see how things turn out after she and assistant coach Rafael Rios have spent nearly a month mixing and matching players in practice, deciding on who is going to play where.

Xavier posted a 15-1-3 record last season. The Gators’ lone loss was not in Arizona, but against a team from the Los Angeles area in the annual Excalibur tournament in southern California, which runs between Christmas and New Year’s.

“We are getting better each day, but it’s going to take some time to figure out what our lineup is going to be,’’ Chura said.

Some players who thought they would play a certain position might find themselves playing in another spot if they are needed there.

“We have some athletes who are capable of doing that,’’ Chura said.

Xavier lost five key seniors to graduation – midfielder Madie Amavilah, midfielder Natalie Duque, forward/midfielder Quiqui Hita, fullback Elena Zurek and fullback Katie Moore.

Chura said the Gators will be fine up front and at midfield, so one of the main objectives is to develop a strong defensive presence. Senior fullback Nicole Hook is the anchor in front of senior goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann, but will need help when opponents apply pressure. Ehmann recently won the Wendy’s Heisman award for Arizona.

Because of their title, a 2-0 win over Phoenix Desert Vista, the Gators will have a target on their backs.

“It’s always a challenge for us, and the fact that we won it makes it even more so this year,’’ Chura said.

Among the players expected to have key roles for Xavier are senior midfielder/forward Mady Chait and junior forward Kyla Ferry. Each scored a goal in the state championship game.

Other key players are Ehmann, Hook, senior forward Abby Hubbard and sophomore fullbacks Elizabeth Warren and Megan Zacher.

The top teams joining Xavier in the fight for the title trophy should be Desert Vista, Gilbert Perry, Chandler Hamilton and Phoenix Pinnacle.


00 – Ella Eberhardt/Fr., GK; 0 – Katie Hessel/Sr., GK; 1 – Kinsey Ehmann/Sr., GK; 2 – Megan McGinty/Fr., F; 3 – Abby Hubbard/Sr., F; 4 – Mady Chait/Sr., MF/F; 5 – Camila Grifol/Fr., D; 6 – Brynn Lebel/So., MF/F; 7 – Jocelyn Rupp/So., MF/D; 8 – Elizabeth Warren/So., FB; 9 – Ololade Adebayo/Fr., MF; 10 – Kyla Ferry/Jr., F/MF; 11 – Abby Ditmer/So., FB; 12 – Katie McGee/Jr., D; 13 – Izzy Culver-Witt/Jr., F; 15 – Taylor Brown/So., MF; 16 – Jessie Simmons/Sr., F; 17 – Karla Alvarado-Lopez/Jr., MF; 18 – Abby Castlen/Sr., F; 19 – Maddy Skrovan/So., D; 20 – Caroline Hink/So., D; 21 – Megan Zacher/So., FB; 22 – Megan Onofrei/So., D; 25 – Nicole Hook/Sr., FB.

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