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, December 12, 2020

Soccer team wants season to be well worth wait

 The waiting is over for Xavier Prep’s soccer team.

It’s been a long time for the Gators to get back onto the field. They had to wait close to a year as the Covid pandemic wreaked havoc on everyone and continues to do so. And there was the drought that brought no rain for 110 days before a cool rain drifted in on Thursday (Dec. 10).

There also was the elimination of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in April. That enabled players that previously had been prevented from playing for their high school teams to return to their high schools.

So now it’s the job of Xavier head coach Barb Chura and assistant Rafael Rios to put all the pieces back together and field a competitive team.

The pandemic also caused a reduction of the schedule and pushed it back to January, signaling more of a wait.

From the looks of things, the Gators appear to be on their way to making the most of their opportunity. The team lost eight players to graduation but will have 11 players returning along with 12 “new’’ players, many of them having played for the Gators in the past and a pair of promising freshmen.

After winning a “play-in game’’ to reach last season’s state tournament and falling in the first round, the Gators will be “much improved. Our level of play has jumped significantly. We have some good players,’’ Chura said.

While the Gators’ skill set creates optimism, the team’s success will ride on another important factor -- team bonding.

“That’s really the No. 1 thing,’’ Chura said. “There are a number of things we used to do that we are not able to for now and we have to find ways of getting the players to know and support each other.’’

Two of the holdovers from last year are senior middle backer Emmie Paulson and sophomore forward Eva Allen.

“We are very happy to get back on the field,’’ said Pauslon, who was injured as a freshman and served as a junior-varsity manager, and played on the JV as a sophomore before moving to the varsity last season.

Said Allen, one of the team’s top scorers a year ago: “With a lot of new players, it will be a big adjustment, a big challenge with the team bonding. But we are doing pretty well with it so far.’’

Supporting each other and holding each other accountable both on and off the field are byproducts of the bonding, according to Paulson.

Also, better communication.

“And it’s important for us to support one another,’’ Allen said. “It’s really important when you’re out on the field to have your teammates cheering for you.’’

Allen would like to at least repeat what she did last year, to add to the momentum.

In the early days of practice thus far, the Gators have been concentrating on conditioning. It may be difficult at times, but it will help in the long run, the players said.

“It will be interesting to watch how the former Xavier players come back and how everyone fits together,’’ Chura said.

Other players to watch are senior goalkeepers Jaden Campbell and Ella Eberhardt, junior midfielder Ansley Burns (a top cross-country runner), senior forward/midfielder Megan McGinty, senior forward Kendall Warner, junior forward Olivia Castrichini and senior forward Ololade “O’’ Adebayo.

Xavier’s 11-match regular season begins with three home contests at Petznick Field – Jan. 5 against Glendale Mountain Ridge, Jan. 11 against Phoenix Desert Vista, and Jan. 12 against Phoenix Pinnacle.



(Players listed alphabetically)

Head coach – Barb Chura. Assistant coach – Rafael Rios.


Ololade Adebayo, F, Sr.

Eva Allen, F, So.

Savannah Angell, MF, So.

Jayme Brown, D, Jr.

Ansley Burns, MF, Jr.

Jaden Campbell, GK, Sr.

Olivia Castrichini, F, Jr.

Talia Coury, MF/D, Fr.

Ella Eberhardt, GK, Sr.

Taea Eberhardt, D, So.

Collins Entz, MF, So.

Bianca Felix, D/MF, Sr.

Mia Felix, D, So.

Tatum Kramer, F, So.

Lourdes Lauterborn, MF, Fr.

Bella Leonard, MF, So.

Megan McGinty, F/MF, Sr.

Tessa Montanile, D, So.

Emmie Paulson, D, Sr.

Hennessy Perez, MF, Jr.

Kendall Warner, F, Sr.

Bailey Wolcott, D, So.

Lizzie Woudenberg, F, Sr.


(Revised from AIA original)

All games, 6 p.m.

Jan. 5 – vs. Glendale Mountain Ridge

Jan. 11 – vs. Phoenix Desert Vista

Jan. 12 – vs. Phoenix Pinnacle

Jan. 14 -- @ Phoenix Mountain Pointe

Jan. 19 – vs. Phoenix South Mountain

Jan. 26 -- @ Gilbert Perry

Jan. 29 -- @ Chandler Basha

Feb. 1 – vs. Chandler High

Feb. 8 – vs. Chandler Hamilton

Feb. 10 -- @ Phoenix North

Feb. 19 -- @ Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor



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