Who’s going to win the 5A Division I girls soccer championship? Who knows. The popular vote this week went to defending champion Xavier, and the No. 1-seeded Gators have shown themselves as perhaps a half-notch better than the rest the majority of the season.
Who’s going to win the 5A Division I girls soccer championship?
The popular vote this week went to defending champion Xavier, and the No. 1-seeded Gators have shown themselves as perhaps a half-notch better than the rest the majority of the season.
But there have been too many close calls, odd bounces and slip-sliding on the fields this season to believe they can’t be challenged or beaten.
Highland (No. 4 seed) is the only 5A team from Arizona to beat the Gators (4A powerhouse Tucson Catalina Foothills beat Xavier in an early-season tournament), but No. 2 Gilbert beat Highland a couple weeks ago.
The chain of who-beat-who goes on forever.
“It’s going to be a real exciting ride,” Hamilton coach Kirk Nelson said.
The rest of the votes go to any of six or eight teams who are legitimate championship contenders, so, similar to the boys side, seeding doesn’t necessarily reflect the strength of the team.
Corona del Sol, for example, is a No. 15 seed and will take on the Tigers for a second time in the past month (Gilbert won the first matchup in mid-January), but few said they would be surprised if the Aztecs could make a run.
“Every year for about six years there’s maybe one first-round upset,” Desert Vista coach Paul Manoogian said. “This year there could be three.”
Speaking of unpredictable, don’t forget about Gilbert. Last year’s No. 1 seed entering the tournament, the Tigers couldn’t withstand a hoard of injuries and were knocked out early.
Seven players were lost from the 2009 team, and the early-season period was an adjustment (to say the least), but the Tigers only had one significant “letdown” in power point matches (a 5-1 loss to Hamilton) and were tied with Xavier for the second-most opponent wins (88) behind Red Mountain.
Besides beating Corona earlier, the Tigers won on penalty kicks against Highland and beat No. 5 Mountain Pointe and Marcos de Niza.
“It’s been a good journey,” Tigers coach Ben Holzer said. “I think people were looking at Gilbert as being a little down. If the season ended today it’s been a good year but all that matters is the next two weeks.”
Getting through the next two weeks will be tough enough in this crowded field of championship candidates, especially in a season where seeding is hardly indicative of staying power.
“We’ve got a tough first-round matchup,” Holzer said. “There are no easy games in the tournament. If you’re going to win you have to beat good teams.”