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.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Burns' soccer approach gives Gators optimism

 Xavier Prep junior Ansley Burns admits she likes to stay busy.

No problem there.

She uses her 24-hour daily allotment to the fullest extent, ranging from athletics (soccer and cross country), student government (as the junior class Student Council Vice President), National Honor Society and her participation in community organizations.

In cross country, Burns finished 25th among individual runners to help Xavier finish fourth among Division I teams. But soccer now appears to be her main focus and likely will carry her beyond her Xavier days and into the collegiate world.

Burns has been a midfielder for the Gators in the past, but this season takes on a new challenge as a “backer,’’ meaning she will roam along the back line and will be expected to turn opponents away with some key defensive stops. Her athleticism is what prompted Xavier coach Barb Chura to implement this latest strategy.

Chura says that Burns “is one of our best players. She probably will not be outworked by anybody. Her engine never quits. She has the heart of a lion. A lot of the impact of her play will not show up in stat books, but she will definitely have an impact.’’

Attitude and the desire to carry on the school’s strong soccer tradition also are key factors.

“She truly, truly loves Xavier soccer,’’ Chura said.

Ansley Burns
After a rollercoaster ride that sent the winter sports seasons into cancellation and then back on again due to Covid virus concerns, Burns and her teammates will be ready to go when the 2021 schedule begins on Jan. 26 with a road match against Gilbert Perry.

“I think I will feel comfortable playing whatever spot they need me,’’ Burns said. “They can play me wherever if they need to make subs (substitutions), have the trust in me that I can do what is needed.’’

Playing the back line will involve playing a physical brand of soccer from time to time, and Burns believes she can survive there. The reason? Playing soccer in her younger days against her older brother, Drew, who played at Brophy Prep and now runs cross country at the University of Santa Clara (Calif.). She also played against younger brother, Luke, now a freshman at Brophy who has elected to play club soccer exclusively for the time being.

Running cross country also has helped Burns with her soccer endurance.

“It has helped me raise my fitness level so much,’’ she said. “I can go side to side on intervals in back, and still sprint to go up and back near the middle or front if I need to. I feel like I’m capable of going a whole game.’’

Although she will have another year to go at Xavier, Burns is casting glances toward college, perhaps on the East Coast, at a school that has a good balance of academics and athletics. She knows she will have to manage her time, and she already does that with her busy schedule here.

She is involved with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Teen Board, providing assistance in various areas, including fund-raising and delivering supplies to the patients and family members through the PCH Red Wagon program and working with Doug Ducey’s Governor’s Youth Commission on a number of issues.

And when you look for her on the field, better not dilly-dally. She won’t be idle too long, if at all. And for Xavier, that’s a very good thing.

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