As far as memorable moments in sports are concerned, few reach the level of the goal scored by then-junior Hennessy Perez in Xavier Prep’s 2-0 victory over Scottsdale Chaparral to earn the Division I soccer title in 2020-21.
It came early in the contest (only 5:14 had elapsed), but the Gators held on and scored an insurance goal with 55 seconds left in the match.
After the final whistle sounded to signal another remarkable achievement for the Gators, Perez said she told her father “that it seemed like time had stopped. I couldn’t believe that it happened at first. But it was real. I was really excited. Everybody was really excited.’’
|Senior midfielder Hennessy Perez and her Xavier soccer teammates are excited about a chance to repeat as state champion (Photo by Don Ketchum).|
The excitement has not disappeared. Perez, a midfielder, is one of four senior returnees and the Gators have a truckload of versatile underclassmen in their bid for the 12th state title in the school’s history.
“We are taking things serious,’’ Perez said. “There are a lot of new players and we (seniors) want to be as nice and helpful as we can so that the younger players can confide in us about whatever they need.’’
Last season “all went by so fast,’’ according to Perez, and now it seems like the pace is more traditional in nature.
“We are working hard,’’ she said. “It’s a mentality thing. You have to be in the right mindset. You want to make it more of a positive. We want to create a family environment, not something just for yourself.’’
She likes what she has seen from the team thus far.
“This is a good group of girls,’’ Perez said. “I think we have a good chance to defend our title. All our players are very skilled.’’
After Tuesday’s (Nov. 30) regular-season opener at home against Glendale Mountain Ridge, Xavier will encounter a tournament-type atmosphere with a rematch on the road against Chaparral on Friday (Dec. 3).
Perez will be there, ready to provide a steadying influence. That’s what seniors are supposed to do.