The old adage says that defense wins championships. That saying was proved to be true, at least on Wednesday night as No. 4-seeded Xavier used its dominant defense to upset the top-seeded Pinnacle, 2-1, in the Division I girls soccer state semifinals.
The Gators, who fell in the semifinals last year, will play No. 2 Desert Vista on Saturday afternoon in the championship game at 3:30 p.m. at Campo Verde H.S.
Pinnacle came into the match with a dominant offense led by Jorian Baucom and Missy Kettelkamp. Xavier countered with its elite defense, led by arguably the state’s best defender in Kellie Peay.
The two teams have met twice before this season, with both teams winning once and all by one-goal margins.
Fittingly, they got to face each once more with a berth in the state finals on the line.
The Gators have stayed the course despite numerous injuries and a couple transfers because of its defense, which shut down arguably the best offense in Arizona for a second time this season, and got two goals from Michaela Dooley to move on.
“I give Xavier credit,” Pinnacle coach Adam Chrestman said. “They were very organized. They were tight on our back and didn’t allow us to turn at all. It wasn’t easy at all. It’s not a game we necessarily lost. They won the game. I definitely give them credit for that. I wish them the best of luck. They definitely do deserve to win.”
Dooley put Xavier up early with a goal in the eighth minute that just snuck in under the crossbar.
That lead held until the 49th minute when Ali Lixandru of Pinnacle scored to tie the match at 1-1. Gators' goalie Synday Tucker had initially blocked the shot, but the ball still found a way to hook into the net.
Dooley responded quickly, however, scoring again in the 53rd minute on a rocket of a shot from 40 yards away to give the Gators a 2-1 advantage they would not relinquish.
“Michaela is a difference maker,” Xavier coach Barb Chura said. “She is a big time player who has been big time all year long. She has been a great player since she’s gotten here in this program. She has been an integral part to whatever we’ve done for four years. Win or loss, it doesn’t matter, she always has impacted the game. She is a great team leader and captain. She just understands this. She gets what this means and understands how hard it is to get to this point. There is nobody that works harder than her. She is a tremendous player.”