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.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

XCP perseveres, leaves Queen Creek in its own dust

 Ansley Burns has played soccer for a long time. The Xavier Prep senior has played all over the field, at just about all positions. She can kick and control the ball with either foot. When she touches the ball, she can get a good sense about where it is going to go.

In the first half of Xavier’s first-round 6A Conference state tournament game at Queen Creek on Saturday (Feb. 12), playing mainly on the side, she set up her teammates with good passes.

The ball did not find the back of the net, although on a few occasions it appeared to, but no goal was awarded.

At halftime, Xavier coach Barb Chura kept encouraging her players, telling them somehow, somewhere, they would find more opportunities. You know, just wait for it.

Then, on a dust bowl field full of potholes, the sun, thinking it was midsummer, continued to beat down on players and fans alike, the opportunity indeed did present itself.

At first, Burns did not realize that she would be the focal point. The Queen Creek defense did not, either.

Ansley Burns (Xavier photo).

Xavier moved the ball down the left side of the field and sent the ball across to the right side, where Burns was stationed. She received a pass and sent the ball all the way back to the left, with the ball heading toward the corner of the goal. Taylor Prigge, Queen Creek’s star senior goalkeeper who is headed for the University of Utah, could not get over in time and the ball had just enough room to get past her.

Bingo. Xavier, 1-0. With 13:10 left in the contest, it was now up to the ninth-seeded Gators to finish this thing off with good defense that would keep the ball away from the No. 8 Bulldogs for as long as possible. They did it!

Xavier soccer players spill onto the field after the team's 1-0 first-round victory at Queen Creek on Saturday. (Photo by Sr. Lynn Winsor).

As the last few seconds clicked away to zero, Xavier players on the sideline jumped with excitement and swarmed the field. Next stop: quarterfinals at top-ranked Scottsdale Chaparral on Wednesday night (Feb. 16).

“All along, we kept talking about finding the next pass (find the teammate in the best position to move the ball forward),’’ Burns said. “That’s what I was trying to do. Then I thought I might have a chance by sending it back across (the front of the goal).’’

She barely saw the ball reach its intended destination.

After the physical game that had both sides hitting the dirt (there was no turf to speak of), Burns said, almost sheepishly, “Well, I fell down. I was able to look over and see the ball go in.’’

Chura was pleased with the way her team played, “particularly with all of the physicality.’’

Another big factor for the Gators was the defense, led by freshman Ally Brown, who was assigned to cover Queen Creek’s top offensive player, Raegan Richardson, and kept her off the board.

So now it is on to Chaparral for a rematch of last season’s state title match won by Xavier, 2-0. The teams also played in the second game of the 2021-22 season, battling to a 1-1 tie. Xavier is 9-3-2, Chaparral 14-3-2.

6A Conference first-round scores

Saturday, Feb. 12

Scottsdale Chaparral 4, Maricopa High 0; Xavier Prep 1, Queen Creek 0; Phoenix Pinnacle 1, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 0; Peoria 3, Mesa Desert Ridge 1; Gilbert Perry 4, Anthem Boulder Creek 0; Chandler Hamilton 2, Gilbert Highland 1; Mesa Red Mountain 3, Tempe Corona del Sol 2 (OT); Phoenix Desert Vista 2, Chandler Basha 1.

Quarterfinal schedule

Wednesday, Feb. 16

All games, 6 p.m.

(Seedings in parentheses)

Xavier Prep (9) at Scottsdale Chaparral (1), Phoenix Pinnacle (5) at Peoria Liberty (4), Chandler Hamilton (6) at Gilbert Perry (3), Mesa Red Mountain (10) at Phoenix Desert Vista (2).

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