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, November 20, 2021

Xavier has the talent to repeat as soccer champ

 It took a lot of hard work for Xavier Prep’s soccer team to claim the Division I state championship last season.

And it will take just as much, if not more, of an effort to repeat in 2021-22.

Coach Barb Chura and the Gators think they are up to the task again, with many holdovers from a team that finished 10-2-1 in a pandemic-shortened season, won the sixth title under Chura and 11th in the school’s history. Chura was named Coach of the Year by

By the time the regular season begins on Nov. 30 with a contest against Glendale Mountain Ridge at Petznick Field, the Gators likely will have had less than 10 practices to fine-tune their skills from last season and the club circuit.

“I think this team is going to be good, really good, with some very good young players,’’ said Chura, who will be the sole voice on the sideline this year after the retirement of popular assistant Rafael Rios.

The team will be loaded with 10 juniors, have four seniors and several underclassmen, including a handful of quality freshmen. There also are two transfers.

Among the key returnees are senior defender/midfielder Ansley Burns, senior midfielder Hennessy Perez, senior defender Jayme Brown, junior forward Eva Allen, junior midfielder Bella Leonard and sophomore defender Talia Coury.

Leonard put her name in the video history books with a goal that sailed close to 40 yards as time expired in overtime to defeat Gilbert Perry 1-0 in the semifinal last season. The play was viewed over and over across the nation as part of ESPN’s Top 10 Plays of the Day.

Soccer is not a game for those who are out of shape, and Burns carries the cardio banner. She moved over to soccer after helping Xavier to a recent eighth-place finish in the Division I state cross-country meet.

While the team’s top two scorers, Allen and Leonard, return from last season, defense remains a key element.

And Brown is here to make sure the job gets done.

Senior Jayme Brown is one of Xavier Prep's top defenders (Photo by Don Ketchum).

“You can’t win without the defense,’’ she said. “If you’re going to score, you have to try to make sure the other team doesn’t score.’’

Brown and the other seniors will be counted on to provide leadership, something that Chura is sold on.

“I’m leaving it (talking about the carry-over from last season) up to the older girls,’’ Chura said. “They have the experience and have to have the mentality to pass along what certain things mean. They usually do a good job of it.’’

Brown, whose younger sister, Ally, is a freshman midfielder this season, has played closer to the outside of midfield on occasion, but has settled into the defender’s role.

“Those spots are similar in some ways,’’ she said. “But wherever you are, you have to make sure that you communicate with your teammates.’’

One of the biggest keys will be finding a player to step in at goalkeeper after the graduation of Jaden Campbell, who recorded several shutouts last season and was a candidate for azcentral’s Player of the Year.

Xavier will have four games before the Christmas holidays, then the schedule will pick up. Eight games will be played in the New Year. Chura is looking forward to all of it.

“There are about six programs that are top-notch, and we’re going to be one of them,’’ she said.


Head coach – Barb Chura.


Kate Willmering, So., GK; Sarah Castlen, Jr., GK; Ansley Burns, Sr., D; Lucy Brink, So., MF; Lourdes Lauterborn, So., MF; Collins Entz, Jr., MF/F; Madison Schenk, So., MF; Tatum Kramer, Jr., F; Keila Lopez, Sr., F; Charlotte Sredzinski, Fr., D/F.

Bella Leonard, Jr., MF; Julianne Veloria, Jr., D; Savannah Angell, Jr., MF; Tessa Montanile, Jr., D; Larkin Thomason, Jr., F; Hennessy Perez, Sr., MF; Bailey Wolcott, Jr., D; Eva Allen Jr., F; Michal Cagungun, Fr., F; Lainey Swanson, Fr., F/D; Talia Coury, So., D; Ally Brown, Fr., MF; Jayme Brown, Sr., D/MF.


(Games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise indicated).

Times, locations subject to change.

Nov. 30 – Glendale Mountain Ridge.

Dec. 3 -- @ Scottsdale Chaparral.

Dec. 7 – Phoenix North.

Dec. 10 -- Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

Jan. 10 -- @ Phoenix Desert Vista.

Jan. 11 – @ Phoenix Pinnacle.

Jan. 13 – Phoenix Mountain Pointe.

Jan. 18 -- @ Phoenix South Mountain.

Jan. 25 – Gilbert Perry.

Jan. 28 – Chandler Basha.

Jan. 31 – @ Chandler High.

Feb. 7 – @ Chandler Hamilton.

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