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.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Go-ahead goal lessens soccer player's pain

 Doesn’t it just figure? You’ve worked and worked so hard to get ready for your school’s season-opening soccer match, and what happens?

For Xavier Prep senior forward Larkin Thomason, one of the Gators’ most productive offensive players, it was kind of an eerie situation on Thursday night (Dec. 1).

Xavier's Gators talk soccer strategy (Xavier photos).

Only about 10 minutes had passed in the Gators’ match against visiting Tempe Corona del Sol, when Thomason went from moving freely about refurbished Petznick Field to being on the ground in a heap with pain shooting through her right leg.

She had been inadvertently kicked on the outside of her shin by an opposing player and thought the worst. She was attended to by Xavier’s athletic trainers, Laurie White and Hannah Duszynski, and sat out the remainder of the first half.

When the second half began, Xavier held a 1-0 lead, thanks to a first-half goal by junior midfielder Lourdes Lauterborn. But Corona del Sol tied it with a goal just three minutes into the second half. Thomason wanted badly to go back in, but only if approved by the trainers. About four minutes later, her wish was granted.

At the 27:34 mark, there was a scramble in front of the Xavier goal and Thomason took aim with her opposite foot/leg (left) and sent the ball into the net.

Senior midfielder Holland Carey gave the Gators an extra scoring cushion with 8:24 left and Xavier rode it out the rest of the way for a 3-1 triumph.

Senior midfielder Bella Leonard (left), digs a ball out of the corner while senior forward Eva Allen (17) moves in to provide assistance.

“I guess I must have been in the wrong line of flight for the ball, except the ball wasn’t what hit me,’’ Thomason said. “Pain was radiating through me and I thought I might have broken a small bone or something. But it felt better later on, enough for me to get back in. It will be something I will have to watch.’’

If Thomason was hurting physically, fellow senior midfielder Bella Leonard had to be dealing with a bruised psyche. It seemed no matter what she did or where she shot from, all her kicks were a millimeter or two off or sailed up and over the goal.

She finally was able to salvage some productivity on Carey’s goal. Leonard brought the ball out of the left corner, danced away from a few defenders and took another shot. It didn’t go in, but bounced back off the Corona del Sol goalkeeper where Carey was waiting.

Meet Olivia Yu (16), Xavier's speedy fast-rising freshman forward.

Leonard can take comfort that her day surely will come.

Xavier coach Barb Chura was happy to put this one in the books.

“They (Corona del Sol) are competitive, very aggressive,’’ she said. “We probably could have had a few more goals, but their keeper stood on her head to stop us and kept them in the game.’’

The Gators made a few adjustments in the second half, in terms of finishing their shots (aware of deflections, etc.) and not just shooting them.

The team will attempt to put refinements into play in its next match, at Petznick on Tuesday (Dec. 6) against Phoenix Desert Vista. Start time is 6 p.m.

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