The 3A Conference boys soccer tournament kicks off Friday at Red Mountain Park in Mesa, the site of the second round games as well.
What follows is a first-round primer. Williams Field High School in Gilbert will host the state semifinals and championship match.
No. 12 Valley Lutheran (9-2-3) vs. No. 5 Northwest Christian (10-3-2): For NW Christian, freshman Michael Huss has a team-high 22 goals. “(Huss) has the ability to be in the right place at the right time and make things happen,” coach Jeremy Witt said. … Jacob Lytle, a senior captain, is a “big, physical defensive presence and sees the game well.” … Sophomore GK Ben Ogan plays “with confidence on the ball and distributes nicely.” … The team may lack soccer experience but can “grind games out and pull off wins.” … For Valley Lutheran, this is the first time in the past 11 seasons that it has had a winning season and won more than four games. … GK Manny Ramirez and his defense are allowing only .8 goals per game. … Junior Victor Carranza leads the team with 15 goals and seven assists.
No. 13 American Leadership (8-4) vs. No. 4 Horizon Honors (10-1-1): For Horizon Honors, the program is enjoying its best season so far despite losing several key seniors last year. … “Horizon Honor’s success can be attributed to players buying into the team concept,” coach Patrick Andrew said. “As the season has progressed, players have been willing to sacrifice individual glory for the good of the team.” … Senior captain Alex Weixler along with Will Goff, Loren Ferguson and Spencer Brown have been “inspirational in both words and actions to younger players.” … For American Leadership, this is the program’s first playoff appearance. … The program has outscored opponents 61-16 this season. … Josue Roque, a freshman, has scored 10 goals. … Senior Colton Cluff has 12 goals.
No. 14 Paradise Honors (10-6) vs. No. 3 Chandler Prep (15-4): For Paradise Honors, first-year coach Truman Dawn steered the program to its second ever playoff berth. … His ball control skills, speed and shot accuracy have helped Rhett Livingston lead the team in goals and is a “natural leader.” … Ryan Benson, a captain, is the team’s assist leader, left-footed and can “see openings and passes the ball sharply to his teammates.” … Zack Guertin, also a captain, is “selfless and has great speed.” … For Chandler Prep, Alfi Calzado, a “highly technical” exchange student from Madrid, has scored five game-winning goals. … Senior captain Nathan Chmelnik is a three-year starter and “anchor” of the defense. … Austin Barney also is a senior captain, three-year starter and has been the team’s playmaker the past two seasons. … This is the best season Chandler Prep has had since the program opened in 2009. Todd Conklin and Max Greeve took over the program last year.
No. 11 NFL Yet (10-6-1) vs. No. 6 Tempe Prep (11-8):For Tempe Prep, the team has won its last five games. … Junior Carter Sampson missed the first half of the season with an injury but played a huge role down the stretch. … Senior captain Jacob Matsumoto, a center back, has eight assists, and is the on-the-field vocal leader. … Tyler Trevillyn, a junior transfer from Dobson, also played a key role down the stretch after missing the first half of the season. … Injuries or ineligibility kept the team from starting its best 11 players, but that won’t be the case against NFL Yet. … For NFL Yet, GK Jose Cortez has “lightning fast reflexes.” “The team has a great heart and fight,” co-coach Armando Ruiz said. “The communication and solidarity among key players on the squad has allowed this group of primarily underclassmen to achieve.” … Richard Torres (15 goals) “can play many positions impeccably, Salvador Magana (23 goals) “is an aggressive offensive player with precise tactical dribbling,” and Filiberto Reyes is a “midfielder who possesses great vision and create plays instantaneously.”
No. 10 ASU Prep (5-3-3) vs. No. 7 Veritas Prep (8-3): For ASU Prep, last year its boys soccer team was the first program to represent its school in the playoffs. … Senior forward Orlando Banuelos, sophomore midfielder Jose Rodriguez and senior forward Daniel Flores are the team’s primary threats. Banuelos is a “lightning quick striker with great ball control and vision.” Rodriguez “is a smart midfielder with great dribbling skills and passing,” and Flores “can play anywhere on the left win.” … For Veritas Prep, senior captain Peter Arriola continues to march on despite an ill family member. “Peter always shows up with his head held up high and smile on his face ready to lead this team,” coach Ruddy Ordones said. … Junior Brayan Martinez is a “work horse,” has a great shot and has very good technique. …. Freshman Marshall Briggs has six goals and a team-high eight assists. … Another freshman, Jason Nunez, is a “predator” around the box and has 15 goals.
No. 15 Sahuarita (10-7-1) vs. No. 2 Safford (13-4-1): For Sahuarita, this is the program’s first winning season since 2009. … Ghanen Lilly-Nolan has scored 26 goals. … Sahuarita is riding a seven-game win streak. … For Safford, the team’s GPA average is 3.792. … Safford’s soccer program is in its 10th season and shooting for its first state title. … Justice Aguilar, a striker “with exceptional speed and ball control," has 15 goals. … GK Spencer Jarvis has a .4 goals against average. … D/MF Riley DeSpain and his defense allowed only three goals in Safford’s final seven regular season games. … Fifteen players have each scored at least one goal.