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, March 11, 2021

Gators topple Tucson in first-round state match

 Like water coming from a reservoir nearly full of spring rain, blue-clad Xavier Prep soccer players spilled onto Petznick Field to celebrate their latest conquest.

It was not so much that they defeated visiting Tucson High, it was how they did it in a 6A Conference state tournament first-round match on Wednesday night (March 10).

Fifth-seeded Xavier led No. 12 Tucson just 1-0 at halftime, then showered the Badgers with five more goals in the second half for a decisive 6-0 victory.

Xavier (7-2-1) now moves on to a quarterfinal match on Saturday (March 13) at No. 4 Gilbert Highland (10-2), which advanced by defeating No. 13 Mesa Mountain View 4-0. The quarterfinal begins at 2 p.m.

Sophomore Eva Allen gave the Gators the initial lead with her team-leading eighth goal of the season.

Xavier coach Barb Chura would have preferred a more comfortable lead, but was pleased that her players were able to turn up the intensity in the second half.

“If you let the other team keep hanging around and have only a one-goal lead, something could happen (to tie the match). Tucson is aggressive and we knew that, so we did not want to allow them to stay in it,’’ Chura said. “When we got up 3, we knew we were in a good position.’’

Xavier made it 2-0 with 31:13 left in the second half on junior Ansley Burns’ first goal of the season, and about two minutes later, the lead went to 3-0. Allen passed the ball from right to left near the front of the goal, where sophomore Bella Leonard scored as the result of a “bicycle kick,’’ where the player more or less assumes a position of riding a bicycle while airborne and can send the ball back behind them.

The Gators’ last three goals were scored by freshman Talia Coury, senior Lizzie Woudenberg and senior Emmie Pauslon, the latter coming with just two seconds left.

It was a particularly noteworthy achievement for Paulson, a co-captain (with goalkeeper Jaden Campbell) whose job as a defender normally is to keep opponents from scoring, not scoring herself. This was her first goal of the season.

Paulson usually plays most of the time in the second half, when defense can be more of a priority. In this case, most of those on the field at the close of the game were reserves and the starters made up the group that ran onto the field to congratulate them, kind of a role reversal.

“That epitomizes what it means to be a team, everyone supporting one another,’’ Chura said.

Chura added that Paulson and Burns have played other positions on other teams (club). Paulson has been a forward and Burns, a midfielder, also has spent time up front.

Of Paulson’s goal, Chura said, “I guess that was Emmie’s “forwardness’ coming out.’’

Campbell and senior Ella Eberhardt combined for the shutout, the team’s seventh of the season.


Petznick Field had a fresh look after Facilities Manager Raul Vega “vacuumed’’ the surface and washed most of the remaining dust away. Petznick also is used for the spring sports of softball and lacrosse.

Great job, Raul !!

Saturday’s 6A quarterfinals

All matches, 2 p.m.

(Seedings in parentheses)

Mesa Red Mountain (8) at Gilbert Perry (1)

Xavier Prep (5) at Gilbert Highland (4)

Peoria Liberty (11) at Scottsdale Chaparral (3)

Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (10) at Phoenix Pinnacle (2)

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