Girls Soccer State Tournament outlooks - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Girls Soccer State Tournament outlooks

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Posted: Saturday, January 26, 2013 7:31 am

Who’s ready to make the leap?

In 2011 girls soccer parlance, it was the Hamilton which won its first state championship after a slow, steady ascent under former coaches Kirk Nelson and Jason Thompson. The Huskies made it to the big match last February again under Mark Eggleston but fell short to Highland in a penalty-kick thriller. Pinnacle engineered its own breakthrough in 2011 with the school’s first state championship after a couple years of close calls.

The Hawks were on the verge of a breakthrough for years until last season, when the offense, penalty kicks and excellent goalkeeping landed Highland its first state championship in 2012 after a long, steady ascent under John Berzins. Jeff Vitorio’s Cactus Shadows squad did much the same in Div. II, only to fall short in the championship match to powerhouse Tucson Catalina Foothills.

Will the 2013 state tournament — which begins Tuesday — bring hardware to another newbie? Or will Highland in Div. I — as Xavier (2009 and 2010), Corona del Sol (2006 and 2007) and Catalina Foothills (2010, 2011, 2012; 2006 and 2007) have all shown in recent years — do what’s hardly out of the question and win another?

The Hawks’ road back to the rings could be tougher a second time around. Pinnacle, Desert Vista, Xavier (which was besieged by injuries this season but is getting healthier), Chaparral and (possibly) Anthem Boulder Creek each have all the necessary ingredients to win Div. I.

“They all have goalscorers and that is what sets them apart,” Corona del Sol coach Matt Smith said.

Further below, Perry, Red Mountain, Chandler and Basha have all shown to have the necessary ingredients to beat those higher seeds.

Division II looks strange without consensus top-three team in Cactus Shadows, which finished out of the top 16 in power rankings, but Notre Dame is on the verge of a championship again after winning in 2009 and a runner-up finish in 2011. Both the Saints and Arcadia have the talent and depth to challenge Tucson Catalina Foothills.

Even Div. III has new legitimate contender in Campo Verde, a top team all season in the power rankings but one which has lost in the quarterfinals each of the past two seasons. Rosanne Headley’s squad hasn’t been this talented before and is in as good a position as the Coyotes have ever been to beat the likes of Verrado, Mingus, Seton Catholic or Palo Verde. The door is wide open, as four-time defending champion Goodyear Estrella Foothills (Class 3A and Div. III) didn’t qualify for the postseason.

“In my opinion, at this point in the tournament it comes down to what team shows up ready to play their game and which team capitalizes on the mistakes their opponent creates,” Headley said. “The mistakes at this point in the season will be few and far between.”

Division I

When: Jan. 29 (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. (3870 S. Quartz Street, Gilbert)

First-round schedule: 5 p.m.: No. 9 Millennium vs. No. 8 Perry (at Highland H.S.); No. 11 Willow Canyon vs. No. 6 Boulder Creek (at Pinnacle H.S.); No. 10 Chaparral at No. 7 Kofa; No. 12 Chandler vs. No. 5 Mountain View (Marana) (at Sahuaro H.S.); 7 p.m.: No. 16 Corona del Sol at No. 1 Pinnacle; No. 13 Red Mountain at No. 4 Xavier; No. 14 Mountain View at No. 3 Highland; No. 15 Westview at No. 2 Desert Vista

Favorite: Highland: Really, any of about five teams could make a case for this spot, but until someone best the defending champions ... Led by the Hatch sisters (Ashley and Bri) and Jaden DeGracie, Highland’s offense and midfield are potent. Whether a goal or two or three can be scored and how the back end holds up against elite competiton (which was terrific last year) will tell the Hawks’ tale.

Contenders: Pinnacle, Xavier, Desert Vista

Darkhorses: Boulder Creek, Perry, Chaparral

Outlook: Corona del Sol wasn’t a top-16 seed until (litreally) the final day of the regular season, but the Aztecs won a couple big matches and played a brutal enough schedule to slide in. Their “reward:” high-octane Pinnacle. Any of about five or six teams would be considered having a reasonable chance at winning the championship. Chaparral might be miffed about having to play at No. 7 Kofa since only the top-4 seeds get home matches, but logistics and geography may have played a part in that. The Firebirds vs. Desert Vista in the quarterfinals would be interesting. If not for seeing Pinnacle in round 2, No. 9 Millennium vs. No. 8 Perry is probably the most even first-round matchup (gasp! the seeding could be right) followed by Red Mountain at Xavier. The Lions don’t have the firepower of Xavier offensively, but Red Mtn. is hot to end the regular season and could make a match of this.

Division II

When: Jan. 29 (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. (3870 S. Quartz Street, Gilbert)

First-round schedule: 3 p.m.: No. 15 Mohave at No. 2 Flagstaff; 5 p.m.: No. 12 Marana vs. No. 5 Arcadia (at Xavier College Prep); No. 11 Raymond S. Kellis vs. No. 6 Ironwood Ridge (at Catalina Foothills H.S.); No. 10 Notre Dame vs. No. 7 Sunrise Mountain (at Apollo H.S.); No. 9 Agua Fria vs. No. 8 Sahuarita (at Palo Verde H.S.); 7 p.m.: No. 16 Liberty at No. 1 Sahuaro; No. 13 Sabino at No. 4 Apollo; No. 14 Queen Creek at Catalina Foothills;

Favorite:  Catalina Foothills: A surprising 1-0 loss to Tucson Saharo was the lone power-ranking match blemish for CF in its quest to defend the Div. II championship. The team is deep and balanced again but competition later in the tournament should be tougher this year.

Contenders: Arcadia, Notre Dame

Darkhorses: Flagstaff, Raymond S. Kellis, Ironwood Ridge

Outlook: The big story here is actually the team that didn’t get in. Cactus Shadows (runners-up in 2012 went 7-5 in the power rankings schedule with a 4.0 strength of schedule, with those losses coming to Div. II Chaparral, a powerhouse in Catalina Foothills, twice to elite-Boulder Creek and a really good Notre Dame squad. The record might indicate why Jeff Vittorio’s team didn’t get in, but nearly everyone in Div. II considers Cactus Shadows to be a top-5 team in Div. II. As for who’s in, watch out for Arcadia and Notre Dame. The Saints may be a No. 10 seed but reaching the semifinals (and beyond) is certainly in Gary Gregory’s team’s sights. A second-round matchup against No. 2 Flagstaff (at Flagstaff) could be a dandy. No. 4 Apollo is good, but Arcadia is capable of beating nearly anyone in Div. II, so the Titans in the semifinals is also a solid bet.

Division III

When: Jan. 29 (first round); Feb. 2 (quarterfinals); Feb. 5 (semifinals); Feb. 8 (championship)

Where: First-round matches at top-4 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. (3870 S. Quartz Street, Gilbert)

First-round schedule: 3 p.m.: No. 9 Yuma Catholic vs. No. 8 Scottsdale Prep (at Xavier College Prep); 5 p.m.: No. 10 Phoenix Country Day vs. No. 7 Cactus (at Verrado H.S.); No. 11 Catalina Foothills vs. No. 6 Seton Catholic (at Desert Vista H.S.); No. 12 NW Christian vs. No. 5 Fountain Hills (at Campo Verde H.S.); 6 p.m.: No. 14 Safford at No. 3 Mingus; 7 p.m.: No. 16 Pusch Ridge at No. 1 Verrado; No. 13 Williams Field at No. 4 Campo Verde; No. 15 Higley at No. 2 Palo Verde

Favorite: Verrado: Though Verrado went 11-0 in power rankings matches this season, its strength of schedule was weak (-3.75). But tournament competition should help this squad which has a dynamic offense. Similar to Div. I, the “favorite” tag is by a razor-thin margin.

Contenders: Campo Verde, Seton Catholic, Palo Verde, Mingus

Darkhorses: Higley, Fountain Hills, Cactus

Outlook: Sure enough, Williams Field and Campo Verde will meet for a third time this season (Campo Verde won both previous matches handily). A possible Campo Verde-Fountain Hills matchup in the quarterfinals would be a good one (Campo won 2-0 in an early-season tournament), and the brackets line up well for Campo Verde and Seton Catholic to reach the semifinals. No. 15 Higley can make a match with No. 2 Palo Verde (even in Tucson), the Knights’ power rankings losses have been to Williams Field and Campo Verde (twice) and all were one-goal margins of defeat. No. 1 Verrado seems like the best bet to reach the semifinals but the rest of this bracket is pretty topsy-turvy.

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]