Xavier Prep’s soccer team is eager to play in the 6A Conference state tournament and defend its state title from a year ago, but the Gators will have to take care of some extra business to get there.
After dropping a 2-1 decision to host Chandler Hamilton in the regular-season finale on Monday night (Feb. 7), Xavier is forced to be in a “play-in’’ game on Wednesday (Feb. 9).
A win over Hamilton most certainly would have allowed XCP to skip the play-in phase, which is a perk of a top-eight finish, but now the Gators (7-3-2) are No. 9 and will play host to No. 24 Tolleson High (6-4-2) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Petznick Field. The winner will advance to the first round of state on Saturday (Feb. 12), which will be an afternoon contest (Time and opponent TBA).
Long-time Xavier coach Barb Chura has waded through the intricacies of how the tournament setup goes (power rankings decided on record and strength of schedule), but at the same time is a bit perplexed as to how the Gators have reached this point.
Xavier’s three losses all have been by 2-1 scores against top eight teams, and its ties also were against top eight teams (3-3 and 1-1 scores).
“You would think it might be a little better (in the rankings) based on our schedule, but this is what we are faced with,’’ she said after the setback to Hamilton and not knowing her fate at the time. “So it’s now the time of the season when anything can happen.’’
Of the Gators’ effort against Premier Region rival Hamilton, Chura said, “I thought we played really well. I was happy with the performance but disappointed with the result. We had, how many chances? We had a lot.’’
After a scoreless first half, Hamilton struck first in the second half, after only 1:08 had elapsed, for a 1-0 lead. With 29:10 left, junior Bella Leonard sent a shot from the far right side that crossed in front of the Hamilton goalkeeper and slipped inside the net on the left side to make it 1-1. Chura raised her fist in celebration.
With 15:53 left in the contest Hamilton came up what proved to be the game-winner after a scramble in front of the Xavier goal.
AIA 6A Conference play-in games
(Seedings in parentheses)
Wednesday, Feb. 9
Tolleson High (24) at Xavier Prep (9), Phoenix Sunnyslope (17) at Chandler Basha (16), Surprise Shadow Ridge (18) at Anthem Boulder Creek (15), Tucson Rincon (21) at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (12), Phoenix Maryvale (22) at Gilbert Highland (11), Yuma Kofa (20) at Mesa Desert Ridge (13), Maricopa High (19) at Tucson High (14), Chandler High (23) at Mesa Red Mountain (10).