Xavier Prep’s soccer team can see the 6A Conference state title on the horizon, but a lot of work remains for the Gators if they are to win a second trophy in a row.
The top-seeded team earned its second 3-0 playoff victory in as many tries in a quarterfinal game at home on Saturday (Feb. 3), putting away No. 9 Gilbert Highland. Xavier had defeated Phoenix Mountain Pointe 3-0 in the opening round on Jan. 30.
Xavier (13-3-2) advances to the semifinals on Tuesday (Feb. 6) and will meet No. 5 Chandler Hamilton (14-5-3) at Gilbert Campo Verde at 5 p.m. The other semi will feature No.3 Phoenix Pinnacle (15-2-2) against No. 2 Gilbert Perry (21-2) at 7 p.m.
Xavier defeated Hamilton 1-0 at Xavier on Jan. 9.
The Gators scored two of their goals in the first half, by senior Abby Hubbard and sophomore Taylor Brown, and picked up the final tally with 24:59 left in the second half by senior Nicole Hook.
Senior goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann made some key stops in the second half to help preserve the shutout.
All three XCP goals came on “set pieces’’ (plays) where an open play such as a corner throw, a corner kick or a free kick is put into play near the goal and is either redirected or headed into the net.
“We are good at those (set pieces). We practice them all the time, because you never know when you are going to need something like that,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura.
The coach knew that Highland (15-7-1) would be a formidable opponent, based on a game between Highland and Xavier on Dec. 11 and won by the Gators 2-0.
“I think we are better now than we were then,’’ she said. “We did a good job today capitalizing on our chances. We kept the ball in their end of the field most of the game.’’