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.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Gator soccer matches Pinnacle stride for stride

 Arizona’s high school girls’ soccer teams are preparing both physically and mentally for the start of the 6A Conference state tournament in less than two weeks.

They need to be playing tough opponents in their last few regular-season matches, ones that will stretch them to the limit as would a tournament foe.

A prime example would be Thursday night’s (Feb. 25) match between Phoenix Pinnacle and Xavier Prep at XCP’s Petznick Field.

Pinnacle had been No. 1 on the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s power points list for most of the season and came in at No. 2 with only one loss in 11 matches. Xavier was 4-2 and came in at No. 8. The Gators' record was a bit deceptive, considering its narrow losses to highly regarded Gilbert Perry and Chandler Hamilton.

Xavier and Pinnacle put on a show in a 1-1 overtime tie, not necessarily due to the scoring output but what the teams’ defenses did to prevent that and the aggressiveness with which they played across the board.

After a scoreless first half, Pinnacle scored first with 28:28 left in regulation.

Awarded a free kick from close to midfield, the Pioneers’ Alaina Kuhn sent a shot toward the Xavier goal. The shot had just enough loft to it where it made it somewhat difficult for the Gator gatekeeper, Jaden Campbell, to judge its descent.

Pinnacle 1, Xavier 0.

Nearly five minutes later, the Gators got the equalizer. Sophomore Eva Allen sent a corner kick from the right side to just in front of the goal. Senior Odelade Adebayo worked her way through the crowd and made contact, but the ball deflected off the Pinnacle goalie and senior Megan McGinty was in position for the putback and made it count.

With 4:30 left in regulation, the Gators thought they scored the go-ahead goal when a shot from sophomore Bella Leonard appeared to rattle around the goalposts and perhaps even the crossbar and go in. The referee ruled it no good and play continued.

The teams traded a few more opportunities to take the lead but could not, sending the contest into overtime. The score remained the same in the two 10-minute extra periods and the teams walked off feeling half empty yet half full.

“It was a good result for us, knowing we could have won,’’ said Xavier coach Barb Chura. “It was an incredible effort what we did, coming back after being scored on to scoring ourselves and tying it. That’s what the good teams do.’’

The Gators now move on to next week and their final two regular-season matches, at home against Phoenix Desert Vista on Monday (March 1) and on the road at Phoenix Mountain Pointe on Thursday (March 4).

Then it is the free-for-all that is the state tournament.

“There are a lot of teams capable of winning it. It’s not like there’s any one team,’’ Chura said. “We have played well against teams like Pinnacle, Perry and Hamilton and we know we can compete.’’



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