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.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Soccer season done, but players' spirit survives

The large, clear, storage-type bags were full of ice and stacked behind the Xavier Prep bench, where Xavier certified athletic trainer Laurie White had set up shop for the team’s 6A Conference first-round state tournament game at Chandler Basha on Saturday (Feb. 15).

White apparently would need most of them.

It had been that kind of game. Xavier knew the contest would be physical, just as on Jan. 24 when the teams first met at Basha and Basha won 2-0.

Both teams’ players tumbled into the dust of the yellowish turf from time to time. Some were fender-benders, others had a greater impact. White certainly was busy, dealing with various bumps and bruises and even a likely concussion.

It all came down to overtime. Basha’s Kallie White scored her second goal of the day with about five minutes left in the first of two 10-minute extra sessions, and the sixth-seeded Bears survived with a 2-1 victory over the No. 11 Gators.

A few of the Gators limped off the field afterward, some with faces flushed on the warm, sunny afternoon.

The most remarkable take-away from this was even though the battle scars were there, nobody could kill the Gators’ spirit. It had been the same way all winter, when the team finished with an extremely deceptive 7-9-1 record. That included a tie against one of the nation’s top teams (Scottsdale Chaparral) and overtime losses to a pair of other title contenders (Gilbert Perry and Chandler Hamilton).

White, a 5-foot-10 senior, used that height to her advantage on both of her goals for the Bears (14-6), who move on to face third-seeded Gilbert Highland in a quarterfinal match at Highland on Tuesday night (Feb. 18).

White’s first goal came with a little more than 10 minutes into the first half on a scramble in front of the goal following a corner kick. The decisive overtime goal came with about 5 minutes left in the first overtime when White guided the ball off another corner kick, but not to the back of the net. The referees ruled that the shot had crossed the plane of the goal.

“The guy (lead official) said it was in, so you have to try to get it back,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura.

Xavier’s goal, with 12:07 left in regulation, also was interesting.

Time was starting to run out on the Gators when junior Brooke Bream, one of her team’s tallest players and one who excels on throw-ins, tossed the ball from the right sideline, not quite at the corner, and the ball sailed over everyone in front of the goal and was touched by the Basha goalkeeper just inside the plane of the goal.

Early in the second overtime, Xavier had a good chance to tie it, but the Basha goalkeeper was able to grab a straight-away shot by freshman Eva Allen.

Of the game in general, Chura said, “It was not our kind of game (physical).

“We (Chura and long-time assistant Rafael Rios) are proud of this year’s team.  I hope they (players) are happy and that all of them come back next year.

“I think the teams we played this year really respected us and how we played. We had a lot of good, young players and our goalkeeper (junior Jaden Campbell) really developed late in the season.

“We have a lot of bright kids and what they do in the classroom transfers over to the field. Hopefully everybody is motivated by that.’’

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