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, February 17, 2022

Time helps Gators solve soccer mystery

 There always seems to be a sense of mystery about state tournament games, and Wednesday night’s (Feb. 16) girls soccer quarterfinal had plenty of it as Xavier Prep and Scottsdale Chaparral staged a rematch of last year’s 6A Conference state championship contest won by Xavier.

At halftime, the clock at Chaparral’s football stadium decided to quit working. So the lead official had to keep time on the field.

Ninth-seeded Xavier Prep had a 1-0 lead at the break, thanks to junior Bella Leonard’s goal on a free kick with 13:21 left in the first half.

So the Gators and top-seeded Chaparral, who played to a 1-1 tie in the second game of the regular season, dove into the second half with blinders on.

How much time is left?

How about . . . now?

And so on, and so on. Nobody knew for sure.

Chaparral tried to press the issue, looking for any kind of break that would allow it to pull even. The Firebirds were more desperate as the night wore on.

The moment of truth had arrived.

The official, wearing an aqua blue shirt, raised his arm and blew his whistle.

It was over.

Xavier (10-3-2) had managed to hang on for a 1-0 victory to earn a spot in Saturday’s (Feb. 19) noon semifinal against fourth-seeded Peoria Liberty (17-5) at Gilbert Campo Verde. No. 2 seed Phoenix Desert Vista (15-2-1) will meet No. 3 Gilbert Perry (13-3-1)in the other semi at 2 p.m.

Chaparral’s Firebirds, meanwhile, finished at 14-5-2 and were not happy campers when they headed for the parking lot. They were hit with a yellow card for objecting to a few calls during the game and a red card was raised in their direction at the conclusion of the contest.

Xavier coach Barb Chura said her team executed a good game plan that put a premium on defense, particularly sophomore goalkeeper Kate Willmering, who made several saves at opportune moments.

“She played the game of her life,’’ Chura said. “She is young, but she has improved just about every time out there.’’

“I couldn’t be happier for our players. Everybody played as hard as they could. We have a lot of youth, and they are sohhhh good.’’

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