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, December 11, 2021

"Scoring Machine,' depth carry Xavier soccer

 Xavier Prep’s “Scoring Machine’’ continued to score, but there was more to the Gators’ 3-1 soccer victory over visiting Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor than that.

Xavier coach Barb Chura was able to utilize the team’s depth, which kept her players fresh, and there was a defensive adjustment that helped the team after Sandra Day O’Connor tied the contest at 1-1 with 19:57 left in the second half.

Junior forward Larkin Thomason scored her machine-like eighth and ninth goals of the young season, and added an assist on a goal by freshman forward Michal Cagungun as the Gators raised their record to 3-0-1 at Petznick Field. Sandra Day O’Connor, playing only its second match of the season, is 1-1.

Thomason’s first goal came with 35:34 left in the first half with an assist by Cagungun.

Sandra Day O’Connor tied it in the second half, and it took just another 1:45 for the Gators to regain the lead, on a goal by Cagungun.

The Gators’ defense shut down the Eagles after the match was tied, putting four defenders along the back area near the goal to lessen the chances of additional scores.

Thomason assisted on Cagungun’s goal that made it 2-1, and Thomason scored again with 11:57 remaining in the second half with an assist from junior Julianne Veloria. Chura was amazed by the element of speed that Cagungun brings to the table.

Sandra Day O’Connor’s goal got the Gators’ attention.

“I just told them (Xavier players) that in soccer, you are going to get teams that hang with you. O’Connor is a good team, much improved over last season,’’ Chura said.

The depth situation is due to improved play across the board, and the coach said that in practice, when the first unit squares off against some of the reserves, “it can get pretty even.’’

Xavier will not play another match until Jan. 10, when it travels to face Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee.

In the meantime, practice times will be spread out with a few days of action in a row followed by a day of rest, allowing those with bumps and bruises to heal.

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