Boys Soccer State Tournament outlooks - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Boys Soccer State Tournament outlooks

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Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 5:42 pm

Will the debate ever end?

In soccer parlance, it’s not likely. Another regular season of twists and turns and last-minute jostling up and down the AIA/MaxPreps.com power rankings has left some schools relieve, others bitter and many more confused.

Several schools on the girls side left out of the top 16 and many more expressed animosity and bewilderment over being left out of the boys bracket. Yet proposals brought forth by the soccer competition committee to expand the field to 24 teams have been defeated, cited on account of logistical and financial reasons.

So while this year’s state tournament might not paint a 100 percent clear picture because it’s without schools many coaches felt were worthy (Mesa, Red Mountain and Perry among the East Valley schools), the soccer must go on.

Most everyone in Division I believes the remaining field is chasing Brophy in Division I, but Divisions II and III are more muddled. But given the drama that ensued in last year’s finals — Hamilton over Brophy in Div. I and Phoenix Cortez over Coronado in Div. III — the next two weeks could be scintillating.

“It is a different game then the Division I games that tend to be an end to end game with lots of set pieces,” Campo Verde coach Drew Guarneri said of Div. II. “From doing some research it sounds like several of the teams in the Division II tournament like to keep the ball on the ground and play possession-based soccer. It should be fun to watch as I think any of the 16 teams are poised to win games. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see some of the lower seed teams pull off wins.”

Given the uncertainty as to whether schools and their respective seedings are accurate, his last point could be a perfect synopsis of what’s to come.

Division I

When: Jan. 30 (first round); Feb. 2 (quarterfinals); Feb. 6 (semifinals); Feb. 9 (championship)

Where: First-round matches at top-4 seed or neutral site; Quarterfinals at higher seed; Semifinals and Championship at Campo Verde H.S. (1270 S. Quartz Street, Gilbert)

First-round schedule: 5 p.m.: No. 9 Hamilton vs. No. 8 Pinnacle (at Brophy College Prep); No. 10 San Luis vs. No. 7 Alhambra (at Carl Hayden H.S.); No. 11 Kofa vs. No. 6 Gilbert (at Corona del Sol H.S.); No. 12 Westview vs. No. 5 Tolleson (at South Mountain H.S.); 7 p.m.: No. 16 Tucson at No. 1 Brophy; No. 13 North at No. 4 Carl Hayden; No. 14 Rincon at No. 3 Desert Vista; No. 15 Desert Vista at No. 2 Corona del Sol.

Favorite: Brophy: This team could be better than last year’s state runner-up squad or even the 2011 championship team. The Broncos are deep, talented, have difference makers led by Riggs Lennon, and made up for a low strength of schedule in the power rankings by playing in the AZ Soccer Showcase and then beating nationally-elite teams in Florida in early January. The gap between Marc Kelly’s team and everyone else is hardly insurmountable but it appears to exist.

Contenders: Desert Vista, Carl Hayden, Gilbert, Hamilton

Darkhorses: Corona del Sol, Pinnacle, North

Outlook: This level had more seemingly-worthy teams left out of the tournament than any other level (boys or girls). Mesa, Red Mountain, Perry, Glendale Ironwood, etc.... were all victims of tough schedules and unknown power rankings formulas and were left out. As for what’ll happen on the field, a Pinnacle-Hamilton first-round matchup could be the best of the bunch, and it could set up another Brophy-Hamilton showdown in the quarterfinals (the two teams have played each other in the past two championship matches and Hamilton has been to three consecutive overall). A Desert Vista-Gilbert quarterfinals matchup also looms. Nobody is sleeping on the Tigers, despite some significant roster turnover from last year and a low strength of schedule ranking (last among the 16 qualifiers in Div. I), are regular guests in the quarterfinals and semifinals under coach Jeff Perry. Corona del Sol won’t beat the odds given they’re a No. 2 seed, but Dan Salas’ team has enjoyed a terrific turnaround after winning the 2011 state championship and then struggling last year with a new roster. Competition hasn’t been stacked but the Aztecs have beaten Hamilton twice and Desert Vista once. Brophy is a notch above, but there are a half-dozen teams (including a couple Metro schools) who are pretty close in caliber to each other.

Division II

When: Jan. 30 (first round); Feb. 2 (quarterfinals); Feb. 6 (semifinals); Feb. 9 (championship)

Where: First round matches at top-4 seed or neutral site; Quarterfinals at higher seed; Semifinals at Paradise Valley H.S. (3950 E. Bell Road, Phoenix); Championship at Campo Verde H.S. (1270 S. Quartz Street, Gilbert)

First-round schedule: 5 p.m.: No. 9 Cactus Shadows vs. No. 8 Queen Creek (at Williams Field H.S.); No. 10 Flagstaff vs. No. 7 Thunderbird (at Greenway H.S.); No. 11 Notre Dame vs. No. 6 Campo Verde (at Desert Vista H.S.); No. 12 Washington vs. No. 5 Verrado (at Copper Canyon H.S.); 7 p.m.: No. 16 Catalina Foothills at No. 1 South Mountain; No. 13 Mohave at No. 4 Salpointe Catholic; No. 14 Apollo at No. 3 Copper Canyon; No. 15 Tempe at No. 2 Greenway.

Favorite: Salpointe Catholic: This could be a real tossup because the Lancers played mostly Tucson schools (though some good Valley schools as well including a 2-1 loss to Brophy). Salpointe is talented and being the No. 4 seed, are guaranteed to be at home until the semifinals (if they win). The bracket is in their favor, as they wouldn’t face a Cactus Shadows, Tucson Catalina Foothills Phoenix or South Mountain until the semis, while Notre Dame, Campo Verde and Phoenix Thunderbird have to slug it out on the bottom half of the bracket.

Contenders: Notre Dame, Cactus Shadows, Campo Verde

Darkhorses: Thunderbird, Agua Fria, Verrado

Outlook: Another half-dozen schools qualified as being “snubbed” out of this tournament as well (mostly from the West Valley and Tucson schools), but it was bound to happen since there were 59 schools in Div. II competing for the 16 spots. Seeding appears a bit more jumbled here as No. 16 Sunrise Mountain is significantly better than its seeding, but playing at No. 1 South Mountain (who’s also played a difficult schedule based on strength numbers) makes this a top matchup. The other big one to watch in the first round is Notre Dame-Campo Verde, a pair of legitimate final four contenders. Queen Creek-Cactus Shadows should be interesting, if the Bulldogs (who have a weak strength of schedule) can hang with one of the better teams in Div. II, and Tempe’s solid schedule give Steve Cihomsky’s team a legitimate shot against No. 2 Greenway even on the road. Because worthy schools were left behind and there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut favorite, this bracket is much more unpredictable. That’s usually a good thing in postseason play.

Division III

When: Jan. 30 (first round); Feb. 2 (quarterfinals); Feb. 5 (semifinals); Feb. 8 (championship)

Where: First-round matches at higher seed or neutral site; Quarterfinals at higher seed; Semifinals at Arcadia H.S. (4703 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix); Championship at Campo Verde H.S. (1270 S. Quartz Street, Gilbert)

First-round schedule: 5 p.m.: No. 9 Fountain Hills vs. No. 8 Seton Catholic (at Coronado H.S.); No. 10 Phoenix Christian vs. No. 7 Palo Verde (at Salpointe Catholic H.S.); No. 11 Combs vs. No. 6 NW Christian (at Cortez H.S.); 6 p.m.: No. 12 Horizon Honors at No. 5 Scottsdale Christian; 7 p.m.: No. 16 Thatcher at No. 1 Coronado; No. 13 Estrella Foothills at No. 4 Williams Field; No. 14 Coolidge at No. 3 Cortez; No. 15 Amphitheater at No. 2 Douglas.

Favorite: Cortez: Barely. It’s a real tossup between defending-champion Cortez and what’s likely the Colts’ best competition (again) in Coronado. Cortez’s only loss this season in power rankings matches was to Div. II Glendale Apollo (whom they also tied in a tournament). Cortez has a weak schedule rating in the power rankings (-5.66) even compared to the rest of Div. III, which is weaker than other divisions because of the inter-divisional play and wide geography between some of the schools lends itself to uneven matchups. Still, that’ll be no hindrance in whether they can repeat as champions.

Contenders: Coronado, Douglas, NW Christian

Darkhorses: Williams Field, Seton Catholic,

Outlook: It’s too bad a worthy team like Glendale Cactus was among those snubbed out of this tournament, but even still there appears to be a notch between Cortez and Coronado, and the rest of the field, though we all know what can happen in a one-and-done tournament setup. For that reason it’s good those two schools are on opposite sides of the bracket, though worth noting Coronado hasn’t had a tight match since early December (2-1 win against Campo Verde). Last year Cortez saved a Coronado penalty kick early in the championship match and eventually won a crazy, 1-0 match. No. 1-seed Coronado’s uber-talented senior group of Victor Perez, Jesse Garcia, Eduardo Perez, Cesar Cervantes, Adolfo Colado and Juan Reyes were all part of that match, and are frothing for some payback and a championship. Watch out for the Black Hawks who’ve only lost to Div. II Campo Verde in power rankings matches. WF has a favorable track toward the semifinals.

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