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.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Soccer wins "play-in,'' advances to state

It’s always good to win, especially in the playoffs.

And with a young team, Xavier Prep soccer coach Barb Chura was happy for the Gators’ 3-0 victory over visiting Mesa Westwood in a 6A Conference “play-in’’ game on Thursday night at Petznick Field (Feb. 7).

Xavier (9-6-1) advances to the state tournament that begins on Saturday (Feb. 9) at 2 p.m. The Gators will play at No. 6 seeded Gilbert Highland (13-6-1). The two met at XCP on Dec. 11, and Highland came away with a 1-0 victory.

 “With so many young players, it is great that they are able to taste this, feel what it’s like,’’ Chura said.

“This is something to build on. I am happy for them.’’

Chura said the program has reached the state tournament in every year of her tenure, and that streak will continue even though the team went a different route to get there.

And now that the Gators are there, they’re in the “anything can happen’’ mode. They are the two-time defending state champion.

“The seeds don’t always matter. We’ve learned that before,’’ she said.

Xavier was in the 11th spot in the final regular-season power-points listing by the AIA, and Westwood was No. 22. Teams 9-24 in the rankings had play-in games and the top eight teams qualified automatically.

The Gators stepped up their game, playing solid defense and peppering the Warriors with numerous scoring opportunities. To its credit, Westwood continued to play aggressively, even when the outcome appeared inevitable.

Xavier scored all of its goals in the first half.

Freshman Keila Lopez Enriquez, one of the pleasant surprises of this season or perhaps any season, scored the first goal with a little less than 10 minutes gone in the contest on an assist from sophomore Kendall Warner.

With 3:16 left in the half, the Gators put their second goal on the board by junior Elizabeth Warren. Junior Kaitlyn Lauck provided the assist.

And for their third goal, the Gators proved that every second on the clock is valuable when freshman Ansley Burns put the ball in the net with only :01 showing. Senior Kelli Rasmussen got credit for the assist.

6A Conference “play-in’’ results

(Seedings in parentheses)

Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (9) 3, Glendale Mountain Ridge (24) 1; Chandler High (17) 3, Tucson High (16) 1; Peoria Liberty (15) 3, Yuma Cibola (18) 0; Mesa Desert Ridge (12) 2, Tempe Corona del Sol (21) 0; Xavier Prep (11) 3, Mesa Westwood (22) 0; Surprise Shadow Ridge (13) 4, Queen Creek (20) 1; Anthem Boulder Creek (14) 3, Phoenix Mountain Pointe (19) 1; Phoenix Pinnacle (10) 1, Avondale La Joya (23) 0.

6A Conference first round of state tournament
Saturday, Feb. 9

(Seedings in parentheses)

Chandler High (16) at Scottsdale Chaparral (1), Phoenix Sandra Day O'Connor (9) at Chandler Basha (8), Mesa Desert Ridge (12) at Mesa Mountain View (5), Surprise Shadow Ridge (13) at Chandler Hamilton (4), Anthem Boulder Creek (14) at Phoenix Desert Vista (3), Xavier Prep (11) at Gilbert Highland (6), Phoenix Pinnacle (10) at Mesa Red Mountain (7), Peoria Liberty (15) at Gilbert Perry (2).

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