Girls soccer state tournament quarterfinal matchups
The “elite eight” remain in the three divisions of the girls soccer state tournament. On the whole, not many big surprises emerged from Tuesday’s first round action, as seeding number often doesn’t tell the full story of a team’s talent and capabilities given the oft-skewed schedules when it came to power rankings matches during the regular season.
Let’s take a closer look at the upcoming quarterfinals matches involving East Valley schools.
(All matches Saturday at 2 p.m. unless otherwise noted; all matches at higher seeded school):
No. 8 Perry at No. 1 Pinnacle: There’s little doubt this is a big climb for Perry to take on, an explosive offense such as Pinnacle’s loaded with talent and experience (forward Jorian Baucom’s ability to play through a broken nose she suffered recently for Pinnacle will be key moving forward). Remember, however, that Perry’s strength of schedule graded out as one of the toughest in Div. I, and the Pumas forged a 1-1 tie against No. 3 Highland during the regular season, so Garald DeGrow’s team shouldn’t be scared. The Pumas’ defense, however, will have to be even better than it was in shutting out Millennium in the first round to get here.
No. 5 Marana Mtn. View at No. 4 Xavier (12 p.m.): It’s difficult to gauge exactly what Marana Mountain View is given its Tucson-heavy schedule, but a solid strength of schedule helps offer legitimacy, as does beating Chandler, 4-0, in the first round, and beating Hamilton, 3-1, early in the regular season. A 4-1 loss to Pinnacle late in the regular season was one of two blemishes in power rankings matches, so Xavier, which slipped past Red Mountain in round 1, will be on full alert. The Gators’ defense is tough, led by Kellie Peay and Amanda Lane. The duo completely stuffed Red Mountain and are capable of doing so again. Xavier is going to put the pressure on Mountain View’s defense with Michaela Dooley, Samantha O’Connor and co. but the defense will again tell this tale.
No. 6 Boulder Creek at No. 3 Highland: After a slow start to the opening-round match against (Mesa) Mountain View, Highland found its attack and swagger late in the second half, led yet again by the Hatch sisters (Ashley and Bre) and Jaden DeGracie attacking in the win. Boulder Creek went 11-0-1 in power rankings matches in the regular season, but its strength of schedule was low. Still, the Jaguars put up seven goals in the opening-round win over Willow Canyon, and there’s a lot of talent here. But not as much as Highland. Boulder Creek is more capable of making the Hawks pay for another sluggish start or its mistakes than even Mountain View was, but if the Hawks can relax (despite a lot of pressure to win) they’ll be fine. This one should be a pretty close match.
No. 7 Kofa at No. 2 Desert Vista (12 p.m.): Kofa was a slight underdog against a good Chaparral squad in round 1, but got the goal it needed and the defense did a terrific job of hanging on against the Firebirds’ solid attack. Desert Vista will be another level for Kofa to handle defensive, not to mention the long bus ride from Yuma. Marvin Hypolite has done an excellent job of coaching and molding the Thunder back into championship contenders. The Thunder’s offense is balanced and the defense has been air-tight outside the season’s only loss to Pinnacle (D.V. lost to Mountain Pointe to begin the season via forfeit due to ineligible player). A Desert Vista-Highland semifinal looks likely.
No. 5 Arcadia at No. 4 Apollo: The forfeit issues surrounding the power rankings rubbed several schools the wrong way (in ways much worse than Arcadia). But it’s possible had forfeits counted as wins/losses and residual strengths of schedules been affected, Arcadia could have potentially been the No. 4 seed and would be hosting this game instead. Alas, we’ll never know how the numbers would have shaken out. Still, the Titans squeaked past Marana, 1-0, in the first round (though Arcadia felt it earned a penalty kick on a foul that likely would have made it 2-0). Apollo went undefeated in power rankings matches (12-0) but wound up No. 4 because of a low schedule rating. A 2-1 against Tucson Sabino late in the regular was the only close contest outside tournaments. Meanwhile, Adam Zweiback’s Titans were also unbeaten in the power rankings (10-0) with narrow wins against Cottonwood Mingus and Phoenix South Mountain (and solid tournament competition in December). There’s a better than 50-50 chance the winner here gets No. 1 Sahuaro in the semifinals (albeit on a neutral field with Fieldturf at Paradise Valley H.S.).
No. 10 Notre Dame at No. 2 Flagstaff: Arguably the cream of the Northern Arizona crop in girls soccer, Flagstaff (12-0 in power rankings matches) has rolled through nearly everyone it’s faced, including its own tournament in early December. An average strength of schedule, coupled with only playing a couple Valley teams, coupled with playing in 45-degree weather in Flagstaff, makes this interesting. Flagstaff has losses to Boulder Creek and Highland in the AZ Soccer Showcase back around Christmas, so the Eagles have played a few top-notch opponents the strength of schedule doesn’t show. The daunting journey for Notre Dame continues, a quasi-”punishment” for being a No. 10 seed even though most consider the Saints a top 4 team in Div. II. The Saints did get some good fortune in beating Peoria Sunrise Mountain on account of the wind blowing in a favorable direction in the second half and overtime of the Saints’ win (a 4-1 overtime decision which is kind of rare). Despite a talent advantage, cool weather and high altitude could work against Notre Dame in this one.
No. 5 Fountain Hills at No. 4 Campo Verde (12 p.m.): Fountain Hills is a tough team to fully grasp. The Falcons have played some good competition in tournaments and regular season matches, but it’s been a mix of Div. II and III schools (Notre Dame, Kofa and Scottsdale Prep among its better opponents). Campo Verde has rolled through most of its Div. III opponents and had beaten Div. II and a couple Div. I foes as well. Roseanne Headley’s squad is coming off a third win against Williams Field this season, and definitely has the makeup of a championship-caliber squad. The winner here likely gets No. 1 Verrado in the semifinals. Campo Verde beat Fountain Hills, 2-0, during the Cactus Cup tournament in early December.