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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Soccer ball bounces in Gators' direction

A soccer ball is round and relatively smooth, but sometimes the bounces it takes do not match.

Take Xavier Prep’s game against visiting Scottsdale Desert Mountain on Wednesday night (Dec. 13).

After a scoreless first half at Petznick Field, Desert Mountain took a 1-0 lead on a nicely placed free kick by Madison Sleiman with 22:30 remaining in regulation.

Just 19 seconds later, Xavier tied it when the Desert Mountain goalkeeper seemingly had the ball under control on a shot by junior Kyla Ferry, only to let it slip off her fingertips and into the back of the net.

“To be able to respond quickly is important,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura. “That play gave us life, and it was like, “All right, here we go.’ ’’

The momentum allowed the Gators to remain unbeaten after five games with a 3-1 victory.

Another strange bounce gave XCP the go-ahead goal and a lead it would not relinquish.

A corner kick by Xavier slithered through numerous players stationed in front of the goal. Ferry, who has done a lot of work in practice with being able to redirect the path of a pass or kick, did so again here, as the ball ricocheted off her foot and past the surprised goalie with 13:21 left.

The Gators’ insurance goal with 7:35 left involved senior goalie Kinsey Ehmann.

Ehmann always has had a strong leg and even scored a goal from near midfield in club ball, according to Chura.

Ehmann boomed the ball down the field from near her own goal and the ball bounced near senior Abby Hubbard, who sent the ball in for goal No. 3.

“Kinsey likes to do that sometimes, get the ball as far down the field as she can,’’ Chura said.

The coach said that Desert Mountain was by far the best team the Gators have played to this point. The Wolves showed that in the first half, particularly with ball and player placement, quickness and aggressiveness.

At halftime, Chura gave her team a pointed warning that if they did not step up their level of play, they would find themselves very disappointed by the end of the night.

The Gators listened and did what they needed to do.

Xavier will take nearly a week off before resuming practice on Dec. 21, with two more tune-up sessions on Dec. 22 and 23 as the team prepares for its annual trip to the Excalibur Invitational in Santa Ana, Calif., Dec. 26-28.

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