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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Three seniors have essential soccer roles

Among the reasons why Xavier Prep is expected to challenge for a second straight soccer title is the play of three seniors – forward Abby Hubbard, midfielder Mady Chait and defender Nicole Hook.

The XCP Files takes a closer look at the trio and how they believe they fit in with the team.

Bringing the energy

Hubbard has been playing soccer for a long time and it’s hard to believe sometimes that she is in her last year at XCP and ready to move on to play for Colorado College.

“We definitely have a title to protect,’’ she said. “I’ve only one it once and I want to win it as many times as I can.’’

To Hubbard, there is no better game than the one she plays.

“Soccer is the best game in the world,’’ she said. “It has been special for me, helping me make friends. It’s such a beautiful sport to play and watch. I have so much respect for this program. I am excited to be a senior.’’

Asked how she makes an impact for her team at left forward, Hubbard said, “I bring a lot of energy right from the (opening) whistle. I really get hyped for a game. We have good team bonding. Coach (Barb Chura) is a firm believer in that, both on and off the field.’’

Hubbard is constantly on the move.

“I love to run at a player (opponent) and get a shot off,’’ she said. “And I like setting up my teammates when I can, creating “corners’ (kicks). Or I might be called on to drop off and slide over towards the middle to help there.’’

More than just the shoes

It’s hard to miss Chait as she moves up and down the field.

She wears bright pink shoes and often has socks to match.

“If I find ones I like, it’s more about the fit than the color, though,’’ Chait said.

She is a center mid (fielder) and says her job “is to keep the game flowing with good passes and make sure we maintain good field position.’’

But every now and then, she is counted on to put the ball in the net. She did just that by scoring the Gators’ first goal in a 2-0 win over Phoenix Desert Vista for the 6A state championship last season (junior Kyla Ferry scored the other).

Chait said the Gators can get a good idea from what to expect from an opponent in the first 15 minutes of the match.

“Teams know we’re going to be good,’’ she said. “We think we are pretty versatile. Some people might not think we’re much of a scoring team, but we can score when we need to. It depends on the year, I guess. We were a good scoring team a few years ago and now we rely a lot on defense. Whatever works for us.’’

Enforcer says “stay away’’ from goal

Hook might be the strongest player on the team, and that is why she is stationed near the front of the goal and does whatever she can to keep opponents from getting a clear shot against Xavier senior goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann.

“The physical part of the game can be tough, but it’s also a lot of fun,’’ Hook said. “We play some teams that are very good and very physical, like (Chandler) Hamilton and Desert Vista.’’

Like most of her Xavier teammates, Hook played club ball where she attempted to stay in condition through running and weight training.

Hook said that for the majority of her first two years at Xavier, she played forward.

“I wasn’t what I would call a great attacker, so they put me on defense for my junior year and I like that a lot better,’’ she said.

Playing defense near the goal involves letting your teammates know where their opponents are going and talking with the keeper.

“It’s important to be vocal, be able to communicate,’’ Hook said.

So another season begins on Monday (Dec. 4) with a 6 p.m. home match against Gilbert High at Petznick Field. Will it help the Gators win another championship? Hubbard, Chait and Hook will be right there in the middle of the action, doing their part.

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