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.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Xavier soccer better than people might think

People say it all the time – their favorite sports team is a lot better than its record indicates.

In the case of Xavier Prep’s soccer team that is not fiction, it is fact.

The Gators have finished their 2019-20 regular season with a 6-8-1 record and in each of those losses, Xavier lost four games by two goals and four games by one goal. That indicates just how competitive the team is.

That was never more evident than this past week – when Xavier lost not one, but two – TWO – matches to Gilbert Perry and Chandler Hamilton by identical 1-0 scores in identical double overtimes, the latter on Friday (Feb. 7) in XCP’s Senior Night at Petznick Field.

The setback to Hamilton was particularly difficult to stomach – Hamilton scored with 1:52 left in the second overtime and Xavier could not answer. The Gators thought they had the contest won late in the contest when one of their shots hit the crossbar and skidded up and back over the goal.

“We should have won the game,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura.

“I feel for the girls. They left their heart and soul out there but did not get the result.’’

This was as exciting as a scoreless match can get – numerous scoring opportunities, great defense and goaltending. And the Gators were able to hold their own against a bigger, stronger team.

Xavier still has a chance to reach the 6A state tournament – but will have to do it the hard way.

The Gators, who were 12th in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power points tabulation entering Friday’s play, will have to wait until Tuesday (Feb. 11) to learn their final slot. Since they are likely to finish between 9 and 16, they are expected to host a “play-in game’’ on Thursday (Feb. 13) against one of the teams that finish 17 through 24. Winners of the play-in games advance to the first round of state on Feb. 15.

“That’s the great thing about the state tournament – everybody starts out with the same record,’’ Chura said.

The coach is fond of her seniors who were honored and has enjoyed working with them and seeing them mature and raise their level of play during their time at Xavier.

“This program is a great program and they know they have been a part of that,’’ she said.

Of the team’s mindset after all of the close matches, she said, “Maybe all of this will help us with what’s ahead and we can play well.’’

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