Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Gators' Zacher shows resolve in life, soccer

It seems like only yesterday when The XCP Files interviewed Megan Zacher about her role on Xavier Prep’s track and field team, as a middle-distance and relay runner.

But that was toward the end of the 2017-18 school year, when Zacher was a sophomore, and a lot has happened since, primarily two life-changing events.

There was the passing of her mother, Lori, who Megan says “was my biggest fan,’’ in July of 2018, and the athlete suffered a serious injury (fractured clavicle and a vertebrae about a third of the way down the spine). All of it left Zacher exhausted, and led her to regroup, saying goodbye to track and recovering from the injury to allow her to continue in soccer, another sport in which she excelled for the Gators.

Now she is in her senior soccer season as an outside left backer, focusing on defense and keeping opponents away from the goal.

Xavier is 3-1 and will travel to southern California (Norco) on the day after Christmas to participate in the annual Excalibur Tournament, which features some of the top teams in the western U.S. Matches will be held on Dec. 26-27-28.

Zacher is in her third year on the varsity soccer team, having played on the JV as a freshman.

One might think she would use the same speed she had in track to sprint down the field for some quick, easy goals, but speed also can be an important ingredient in defensive play.

She said she likes where Xavier coach Barb Chura has positioned her on the field.

“I like it a lot,’’ Zacher said. “I played forward, center-mid, a little when I was younger, but I think I am better in the back where I am now.

“I like chasing people (opponents) down the sideline to help save a goal, to get the ball and set up my teammates with passing.’’

Zacher had played some club soccer, but she was OK to play for Xavier around the time of the late fall tryouts.

Her injury occurred when she was running along the beach, trying to race her older brother, Matthew. Somehow Matthew bumped her and she went down. Matthew, a graduate of Brophy Prep, now attends Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. Their mother and father, Keith, also went to Creighton and Megan is considering attending as well, although it is unlikely she would play soccer, electing to study on business and marketing.

That possible scenario is why soccer is even more important to her, as she strives with her teammates to reach the top rung in Arizona.

The Excalibur Tournament should provide a good measuring stick for the Gators because of the quality of play, which could help the team when it returns here to the local scene.

The tournament also offers an opportunity for the Xavier players to bond and get to know each other better, drawing on the support of one another. Improved communication also helps during key moments in matches.

Zacher is one of three senior tri-captains, along with Elizabeth Warren and Megan Onofrei.

“It’s exciting and sad at the same time,’’ Zacher said. “We’re getting near the point when you know you’re not going to be playing with them again. That is why we want to do whatever we can to help this team win.’’

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