Boys soccer state tournament quarterfinal matches
The “elite eight” remain in the three divisions of the boys 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.
But there were a few that raised eyebrows, which is a good thing. It makes things a little unpredictable (though it also doesn’t necessarily help the credibility of the power rankings or seedings).
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. 9 Hamilton at No. 1 Brophy: It’ s neck-and-neck race between whether this matchup or the Desert Vista-Gilbert will be a better match. Either way, they’ll both be great. This is a rematch of the past two state championship matches (won by Brophy in 2011, won by Hamilton last year) and the teams are better (or nearly) as good as those versions. Hamilton’s defense will be tested by a potent and deep Brophy attack, while midfielder Luis Manta’s play is a big key for the Huskies’ fortunes. Brophy had relatively little trouble with Tucson High in the opening round victory, but Hamilton needed a comeback (which the Huskies are good at doing) against a shorthanded Pinnacle squad to forge a 3-2 victory. This will be fast and physical, a couple schools with lots of kids who know each other but not necessarily a lot of on-field love lost.
No. 6 Gilbert at No. 3 Desert Vista: Speaking of dandies, this one should be another excellent matchup. Gilbert’s in the quarterfinals for the 11th time in 13 seasons under coach Jeff Perry. The Tigers are always intense and excellent defensively. Trevor Irion entered the postseason with 23 assists while Ryker Seifert had 15 goals and goalkeeper Hayden Rus has 14 shutouts. Chris LoConti leads the defense (here’s his interesting backstory we chronicled last year). Gilbert swept through power rankings matches (except a tie with Basha late in the regular season) though the schedule wasn’t the most difficult, and the Tigers beat Kofa, 1-0, to begin the state tournament on Wednesday, a quality victory. Mike Rabasca is another longtime, excellent coach at D.V. , and the Thunder have wins against top competition in Corona del Sol, Hamilton and Mesa (which should have made the postseason). Danny Gavin is an excellent offensive threat which makes for a great matchup against Gilbert’s ‘D’.
No. 10 San Luis at No. 2 Corona del Sol: San Luis is making its 10th consecutive playoff appearance, and it slipped by Alhambra in the first round to make it here. Corona won the state championship in 2010 and then went through a “down” period of sorts with injuries and graduations and defections to kids playing at Real Salt Lake academy instead of H.S., but Dan Salas’ squad found consistency in January with a return to health (injuries and illness swept through the roster for a stretch). The Aztecs beat Desert View, 1-0, in the opening round, and it gets tougher from here on out.
No. 8 Queen Creek at No. 1 South Mountain: What was supposed to be an intriguing 16-vs.-1 matchup in the first round between Catalina Foothills and South Mountain turned out to be a runaway victory for the latter, and South Mountain has a legitimate chance to reach the semifinals. That would be worthy of playing the “no respect” card. Yabin Cruz is approaching the 40-goal plateau this season, so Queen Creek will pay extra attention to him. The Bulldogs had a difficult first-round matchup against Cactus Shadows, but survived a 4-3 match to move on. The Bulldogs’ schedule wasn’t the most rigorous but it does include a couple win the Mesa Jackrabbit Invitational and wins against Campo Verde. The winner gets either Verrado or Salpointe Catholic in the semifinals on Feb. 7. That’s not easy for anybody.
No. 14 Apollo at No. 6 Campo Verde: This is the second match of a Campo Verde doubleheader (the girls play at 12 p.m.) and it’s a solid bet that both Coyotes teams will be sharing the semifinal spotlight next week. Eric Mormon’s header with four minutes left in regulation broke a tie and advanced Campo Verde here in beating a good Notre Dame squad in the first round. Campo owes Apollo a favor (no, not by losing this match, some other payback) because Apollo beating Copper Canyon allowed Campo Verde to play this match on its Fieldturf at home. Coach Drew Guarneri is the fourth coach in the four years of Campo Verde’ s program, which is led by Sam Gleadle (38 goals).
No. 9 Fountain Hills at No. 1 Coroando: The beat goes on for Mike Tsorin’s Coronado team, tops in Div. III and certainly worthy of that ranking. This will be the oft-dreaded third meeting between these schools this season. Coronado won both matches (5-0 on Dec. 4 and 6-1 on Jan. 14), and it’s hard to see that changing even with a third meeting given how well Coronado has played all season. Even if the team is without sophomore stud Miguel Gonzalez (54 goals in slightly less than two seasons) because of injury, the Dons have depth and talent to compensate most of the rest of the way. This is Fountain Hills’ sixth consecutive playoff appearance and fourth time in those six years they’ve advance beyond the first round (def. Seton Catholic in round 1). The future is quite bright given Ftn. Hills’ youth and lack of returning experience on this team, but this is a tough matchup for them. Still, that’s why they play the match, right?
No. 5 Scottsdale Christian at No. 4 Williams Field: This has all the makings of a true No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup. Though with a few common opponents, the teams did not face each other this season. SCA has Cole Landerink (26 goals), but the Eagles have relied on defense all year, and cruised to a 6-1 win against Horizon Honors in Wednesday’s first round, the same score Williams Field used to beat Estrella Foothills in the first round. Depth and possession will be key for SCA to keep the ball away from Williams Field and limit the Black Hawks’ balanced-yet-quick striking offense.