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 1, 2020

Younger players provide spark for XCP soccer

The present looks promising for Xavier Prep’s soccer team. Fueled by a number of young players, particularly freshmen, the Gators have been very competitive all season, with all six of their losses coming by only one or two goals (2 and 4, respectively).

But the future looks bright as well, particularly if the younger players mature and improve.

A pair of freshmen played key roles on Friday night (Jan. 31) as the Gators dispatched visiting Chandler High 7-0, scoring twice in the first half and pulling away in the second.

Tessa Montanile scored twice and Eva Allen had one goal and both played good defense. Both display strong ball-handling skills.

Senior Elizabeth Warren also scored twice, while senior Kaitlyn Lauck and junior Kendall Warner each scored a goal. Junior Jaden Campbell and sophomore Delaney DeBusk combined to give XCP the shutout.

The win was important for the Gators as it evened their record at 6-6-1 and allowed them to pick up some valuable power points. Xavier currently is 10th in 6A, with the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s new rankings set to appear on Tuesday (Feb. 4).

Whether Xavier can win one or both of its final two games against Premier Region opponents Gilbert Perry (Tuesday at Perry) and Chandler Hamilton (Friday at Xavier) remains to be seen. The Gators would like to finish in the top eight and avoid having to compete in a “play-in’’ game in order to qualify for the state tournament.

“This is the time of year when you have to step up,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura. “Our energy was up tonight and we played a complete game. Our younger players played well and we are happy because we were able to get every player into the game.’’

Chura added that the team had a good week of practice and focused on offensive play, as long-time assistant coach Rafael Rios provided key input with that strategy.

“Our offense tonight showed the girls, “That’s why we do this in practice,’ ’’ Chura said.

From the opening moments of the contest, Xavier was beating Chandler to the ball most of the time.

Warner broke the ice with a goal in the first six minutes and Allen followed about 10 minutes later with a long, arching shot from the left side. It looked like it might have a chance when the ball left her foot, and sure enough, it landed in the back of the net.

The race was on in the second half. Montanile scored her first goal on a long shot from the right side. Warren scored her first goal off a deflection and Montanile was on the board again to make it 5-0 with 15:22 left in the match.

Lauck scored her goal with about 13 minutes left and Warren got her second with a little less than seven minutes left.

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