The season and high school soccer career of Alexandra Elston ended bitterly and controversially against Phoenix Desert Vista in the 5A-I state semifinals.
For Elston, her high school legacy as one of the best in the state for two years hadn’t wavered. Neither had her future, since she and teammate Erica Long both signed up to play at Arizona State this fall.
It was who they were leaving behind, and why Elston played through flu-inspired dehydration, an injured hamstring, torn meniscus cartilage in her knee, and still led 5A-I with 27 assists.
“She cared about the team so much, both talked and showed it,” Pride coach Kirk Nelson said. “She knows how hard the team worked and falling short like that was brutal.”
It never was about Elston, not even when she scored 50 goals as a junior. And not now, even as the Tribune Player of the Year for a second consecutive season.
This time, it was a toss-up with Tempe Corona del Sol’s Brittany Cole in one of the closest races in the past decade.
Elston scored fewer goals this season, and fewer total points (75 this year), but nine East Valley coaches who either competed against her or saw her play at least twice still considered her the game’s biggest threat.
The hamstring injury forced Elston to miss part of the Dobson tournament, and she was forced out for a couple of weeks because she couldn’t run on her grapefruit-sized knee after playing in the Fiesta Tournament.
“It was all Jell-O-looking and you could see the fluid moving around,” she said.
Though never healthy, she returned a better passer, defender and ball handler.
Somehow, the best got better.
“I’d be surprised if she wasn’t looked at to be playing on the national or Olympic level,” Nelson said. “She’s the total package of player and person.”
Class 5A All-Tribune first team Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Lauren Mitchell Desert Vista Jr. GK Was tremendous in postseason Bostyn Burger Gilbert Sr. D 2-time Fiesta Region defensive player of the year Kara Miller Desert Vista Sr. D Anchor of state finalist defense for third straight year Baili Foutz Mtn. Pointe Sr. D Quietly became area’s top defender in under two years Alexis Burkhart Corona Jr. MF Needed just 51 shots to score 39 points Alexa Daiutolo Corona Sr. MF 3-time all-region player’s value goes beyond stats Ellen Harris Xavier Sr. MF Desert Valley Region player of the year Chelsea Canepa Xavier Jr. F Top scorer has played forward less than 2 years Erica Long Mtn. Pointe Sr. F Biggest recipient among Elston’s 50 assists Alexandra Elston Mtn. Pointe Sr. F Area’s biggest impact player for second straight year Brittany Cole Corona Jr. F School’s all-time points leader was best in big games
Class 5A All-Tribune second team Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Natasha Hawley Marcos Sr. GK Was as good as Mitchell for 5A-II state semifinalists Kristi Andreassen Marcos Sr. D Catalyst for 5A-II state semifinal run Jessica Petznick Xavier So. D Quickly became team’s most consistent defender Chelsea Riedell Highland So. D Best sweeper in Fiesta Region Molly Simons-Stuber Red Mtn. Sr. MF 2-time East Valley Region player of the year Sam Conrad Gilbert Jr. MF 3-time first-team all-Fiesta Region with 47 points Katlyn Piotrowski Desert Vista Jr. MF Anchored Thunder’s offense with Katie Shepard Ariel Cook Gilbert Jr. F Fiesta Region offensive player of the year Megan Larsen Corona Jr. F Made life much easier for goalies Hailey Hayes & Nicole Burt Andrea Clark Dobson Sr. F Mustangs’ top player for two years Katie Shepard Desert Vista Jr. F Leader of Thunder’s incredible junior class Player of the Year: Alexandra Elston, Mountain Pointe Coach of the Year: Barb Chura, Xavier Class 5A honorable mention Basha: Ashley Jiminez, Jr. MF; Chandler: Hannah Grout, Jr. MF; Corona: Ashley Kniffin, So. D; Desert Mountain: Meri Greenberg, Jr. MF; Desert Vista: Kaylee Thronson, Jr. D; Dobson: Danna Cravens, Sr. G; Shawn-Tae Green, Jr. F; Gilbert: Rachel Clause, Sr. F; Sarah Lehman, Jr. D; Horizon: Alex Rush, Sr. D; Ali Norlander, So. MF; Marcos de Niza: Lisa Andreasson, Sr. MF; Mesquite: Kimberly Feidler, Jr. MF; Vanessa Stone, Sr. F; Mountain Pointe: Kat McDonald, Jr. D; Paradise Valley: Kirsten Birkhold, Sr. F; Ally Cwiekowski, Jr. D; Stacey Hock, Sr. MF; Westwood: Cindy Bohorquez, Sr. MF; Xavier: Annie Graham, Fr. G; Cassidy Osborne, So. D; Rachel Werner, Sr. D; Laura White, Sr. MF
Class 2A-4A All-Tribune first team Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Samantha Sermeno Tempe Prep Sr. GK 3A all-state keeper and defensive player of the year Jenna Bowers Seton Jr. D All-state sweeper key in Sentinels’ 16 shutouts Daniella Serrano Fountain Hills So. D Already a two-time all-state sweeper Aly Bullock Arcadia Sr. MF Leader of Titans in front of goalie Jessica Hendricks Shannon Desmond Seton Sr. MF 43 goals and 30 assists alongside Lopez Jessica Lopez Seton Jr. MF 3A offensive player of the year with 125 points Ally Thrall Chaparral Jr. MF Desert Sky player of the year was clutch in playoffs Danielle Madison Arcadia Sr. F East Sky Region player of the year Danica Webb Higley Sr. F 433 career pts; reached state finals & semifinals twice each Brittany Willock Pinnacle Sr. F 25 goals tied the single-season school record
Class 2A-4A All-Tribune second team Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Arielle Harris Pinnacle Sr. GK Posted 8 shutouts, made 4 saves in region title shootout Jessica Hendricks Arcadia Jr. GK 2-time all-East Sky Region stopper Blakele Bergman Higley Jr. D Overshadowed by Webb and offense, but anchored the ‘D’ Anna Clark Pinnacle Sr. D Three-year improvement has her playing at NAU this fall Kayla House Chaparral Jr. D Key reason behind Harris’ eight shutouts Jessica Summers Pinnacle Sr. MF Played all over field and joined Summers with 40+ points Ellie Cobb Tempe Prep Jr. MF Distributor led Knights to three straight 1A-3A title games Haley Struthers Chaparral Jr. F Struthers and House were team’s best players in postseason Joann Villela Tempe Sr. F Two-sport standout (volleyball) was bright spot for Buffaloes Chelsea Carew Queen Creek So. F Quickly becoming a top scorer in 4A-I
Player of the Year: Danica Webb, Higley
Coach of the Year: Anna Cady, Arcadia Class
2A-4A honorable mention Arcadia: Jackie Fisk, MF, Sr.; Jen Estes, Sr., MD; Chaparral: Jessica Bowen, G, Sr.; Leah Cheney, MF, Jr.; Jenna Merrill, D, Fr.; Coronado: Nikki Coleman, Jr., MF; Fountain Hills: Andie Brookhouser, So.; MF; Alex Wright, So., F; Higley: Kristin Yosick, Sr., D; Carissa LaFevers, Jr., MF; McClintock: Griselda Bonilla, MF, Sr.; Pinnacle: Andrea Hall, D, Jr.; Phoenix Country Day: Michelle Barnhill, Sr., F; Saguaro: Kelly Fitzpatrick, MF, Jr.; Seton Catholic: Eleanor Beatty, Jr., F; Tempe Prep: Olivia Kuby, Jr., F; Valley Christian: Katie Gaab, Jr., MF
Looking back MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM THE 2006-07 SEASON
Encore performance: Concluding one of the wilder state tournaments in recent memory, Tempe Corona del Sol won its second consecutive 5A Division I championship with a 2-0 victory against Phoenix Desert Vista at ASU. No overtime heroics were needed this year, as was necessary in 2006, but the Aztecs needed Brittany Cole again. She scored the game winner for the second consecutive year. The night capped another terrific season for Cole, who became the school’s all-time points leader midway through her junior year.
Semifinal build-up: Before the championship, however, came semifinals dominated with drama. Phoenix Xavier’s Samantha Cummings scored with three minutes left in overtime to take a 3-2 lead over Corona, but the Gators had their season ripped away when Alexa Daiutolo scored with 11 seconds left to force a shootout. Hailey Hayes made two saves in the shootout and Daiutulo added another penalty kick to send the Aztecs to the championship match.
Controversial finish: Not to be outdone, Desert Vista and Phoenix Mountain Pointe played an equally exhausting, controversial semifinals. Trailing 1-0 in the final 30 seconds of regulation, the Pride hounded Desert Vista’s defense for one final rush. Thunder goalie Lauren Mitchell — who practically stood on her head all night to preserve the shutout — went to make a diving save, but a loose ball led to a wild scrum. The ball and Mitchell wound up inside the net, and the Pride was awarded a game-tying goal. But the officials conferred and reversed the call, saying the Pride committed a handball violation. Desert Vista won to advance to the championship match.
Familiar final: This was the third consecutive year Chandler Seton Catholic and Tempe Prep met for the 1A/2A/3A state title. The Sentinels won their sixth consecutive state crown, and last, before they move up to 4A-II next year. Working alongside 3A Player of the Year Jessica Lopez, Katie Blomberg scored four goals in the second half to negate Tempe Prep’s early 1-0 lead. Blomberg and fellow senior Shannon Desmond concluded their four-year careers undefeated against 1A/2A/3A schools.
Webb leader: Despite her team falling a game short of repeating as 4A-II champions, Gilbert Higley’s Danica Webb became Arizona’s all-time leader with 183 goals. The Knights went 24-0 and won the state title in 2005-2006, their first season in 4A-II. This year they went 20-6 to reach the semifinals, but they’ll begin life without Webb next season. She scored 53 goals. In her four years at Higley, Webb and the Knights played in two state championship matches and two state semifinals.