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3A girls soccer state preview: Ft. Hills in search of 3rd title

As expected, Fountain Hills and Gilbert Christian wound up with the top seeds in the 3A Conference girls soccer state tournament. 

The two teams met during the regular season, with Fountain Hills winning 3-0. The three goals, including two penalty kicks, were scored in the final minutes.

But Gilbert Christian played that game without one of its top players. Fountain Hills and Gilbert Christian, coached by former NFL kicker Jay Felly, might be the favorites but don’t overlook the rest of the field. 

Scottsdale Christian tied Gilbert Christian this season. The tournament kicks off Friday at Mesa Red Mountain Park, the host of the second round games as well. 

Williams Field will host the semifinals and championship game. For the annual 3A state soccer program, go here

3A Conference first round preivew

No. 16 Page (7-5) vs. No. 1 Fountain Hills (14-3-1): For Page, the team rebounded from last year’s 0-11-3 campaign. … The team went from being outscored 69-11 last year to outscoring teams 34-27 this season. … For Fountain Hills, the 3A’s best player, Erika Yost, set a new season school record with 44 goals. She is now shooting for the school career record. … Fountain Hills won two of the state finals it reached in the past three seasons. … A neat story developed this year with first-time soccer player Colie Engler, a special needs student who scored a goal this year. “She is such an inspiration to all of the girls and everyone on the team truly loves and cares about her and each other,” coach Alison Mabery said. “She reminds our team of what is important when we seem to have lost track of our goals throughout the season.” … Freshman Rori Smith “is a feisty midfielder who can hunt down any ball from any player.” … Senior captain Danica Kerr, is a sweeper who “is a strong defender that plays smart and simplistic, tracking down fast breaks and clearing the ball into the offensive half under pressure.”

No. 9 Northwest Christian (9-9) vs. No. 8 Safford (14-0-2): For NW Christian, the team is finally at full strength after suffering some injuries. … The impact of this year’s five freshmen “has been extremely helpful." … “The season has not turned out what we had expected, but our heart and encouragement toward one another and our ability to overcome will be huge as we head into the playoffs,” coach Jeff Penzone said. Penzone has coached soccer at Northwest Christian for  13 years, including 10 seasons with the boys. Assistant Eric Maszton has coached with Penzone for eight seasons. … For Safford, a win will tie the best win total the program has had under sixth-year coach Frank Garcia. … The team has outscored opponent 86-7 this season. The team was outscored 39-29 last year.

No. 12 Yuma Catholic (11-1) vs. No. 5 Casteel (12-0): The Yuma Catholic-Casteel football rivalry started this year and it seems like it will continue with soccer. Both football programs also met in the first round of the playoffs. … For Yuma Catholic, the program has had a winning record every year under Jesus Quintana since the 2007-08 season. … Seniors Bryann Wiley, Giselle Meza and Ezlie Perez (12 assists) have each scored 10 or more goals. … Sophomore Natalie Camarena has 11 assists. … Yuma Catholic’s 83 goals this season were scored by 15 players. … Sophomore Danisia Ellin has a .2 goal against average in 12 games. … For Casteel, freshman Samantha Anger recorded 31 goals and 10 assists during her first 11 games. “Sam is not only a great player, but she’s also a great teammate,” coach Jason Hammonds said. “She makes those on the field around her better. She’s a fierce competitor who will not give up.” … Another freshman, Kylie Ibach, “does the dirty work.” “As our defending midfielder, Kylie signifies the blue collar work ethic that our defense lives by,” Hammonds said. A third freshman, goalkeeper Kyli “K9”  Swann, has recorded nine shutouts and has a .2 goal against average. “All nine shutouts have been a complete team effort,” coach said. … Casteel is in its first varsity season and starts eight freshmen and three sophomores. Coach Hammonds is in his first season as a varsity coach.  

No. 13 Thatcher (11-6-2) vs. No. 4 Scottsdale Christian (11-3-1): For Thatcher, Kiana Oriero has 26 goals. … Midfielder Kayla West is the teams “workhorse.” … Center defender Sydney Phillips is “very quick and strong and is the rock of the team’s defense.” … “Our team was successful this season because we have challenged ourselves from the beginning,” coach Sara Bibb said. … This is the third full season of Thatcher’s program, which finished 11-2 last year and reached the state quarterfinals. … For Scottsdale Christian, senior midfielder Kate Lawrence and senior goalkeeper Grace Schreyer are the team’s leaders. Lawrence has 31 goals and 20 assists. “(Lawrence) just finds a way to score,” coach Mike Phillipp said. “She has lots of heart and a strong desire to win with her teammates.” … Schreyer came up big during important games against Northwest Christian, Scottsdale Prep and Gilbert Christian this season. … Defenders Kristina Kelm, Katelyn Salmon, Emma Villasenor and Brooke Bottle have played at Scottsdale Christian for three-plus years. … The program has reached the playoffs the last three years. … Sophomore Dasha Kem, a native of Russia, just received her U.S. citizenship.

No. 14 Arete Prep (7-4-1) vs. No. 3 Trivium Prep Academy (15-1): For Trivium Prep, sophomores Paula Rosztoczy and Maddy Schleifer, Kylie Rusick, and freshman Samantha Johnson have eached scored 10 goals or more. … The team has outscored opponents 70-4 this season. … The program, which is in its second season with the AIA, has only three seniors. … Sophomore goalkeeper Tori Gutierrez has 11 shutouts and a .4 goals against average. … Christian Browning is in her first season as Arete Prep’s coach. … Junior Skylar Nicholas scored 11 goals in nine games. … The team is 5-1-1 during its last seven games.

No. 11 Veritas Prep (8-2) vs. No. 6 Tanque Verde (13-1-1): For Veritas Prep, Kylie Hall (17 goals, 15 assists in 9 games), Kylie Carwitz (12 goals, 4 assists in 6 games) and Bailey Fisher are the team’s leaders. … Hall has “incredible dribbling skills, vision, passing and shooting ability and is a natural playmaker and leader.” Carwitz is ambidextrous, an excellent dribber, hard to dispossess, incredible defender and striker.” Fisher is a captain, “tough, a natural born leader, playmaker on defense, great free and corner kick.” … For Tanque Verde, second-year coaches Shana Olayvar and Lauren Allen wouldn’t mind taking Tanque Verde to another state championship game. … Tanque Verde is led by junior forward Nastia Loughren, midfielder Michelle Escobar and senior defender Makenzie Bernal. Lughren “is a technical player with speed, especially with the ball at her feet.” She leads the team with 25 goals. Escobar “anchored the middle” and is also a technical player. Bernal, a captain, “brought a very physical style of play” and split time at goalie, “dominating play in the air.” “We lost three key players from last year's state runner-up team,” Brown said. “This year’s team knew it would have its work cut out for them and showed remarkable resiliency as they focused on returning to the state playoffs.” ... Some difficult family illnesses has brought the team closer together. “We live life to the fullest, never taking a moment for granted, understanding that tomorrow is not promised,” coach Senko Redzic said. … Redzic is in his second year as head coach and is a coach second, coach of life first. “I can squeeze juice out of a rock,” Redzic said. 

No. 10 Scottsdale Prep (9-6) vs. No. 7 Anthem Prep (11-2-1): For Scottsdale Prep, it is led by a well-experienced coach, Ivan Dizdar, who won two national titles at Yavapai as a player before moving on to play at Seattle University. … Injuries derailed Scottsdale Prep during Dizdar’s first two seasons, but this year’s team is healthy heading into the playoffs. …  Forward Sonja Rao has scored more than 20 goals, “is extremely fast and has amazing skills with the ball.” “Her touches are excellent and she rarely makes mistakes on the ball,” Dizdar said. … Center back Hailey Miller has “an outsanding touch and rarely makes mistakes when possessing the ball.” “She is one of the key players who allows us to build the ball out of the back and have majority of the ball possession in every game,” Dizdar said. … Defensive mid Kati Wick is a “tremendous defender and makes sure that the other team is not dangerous in our half.” “She is extremely fit this seaon and is able to make every play defensively and pus up to help on offense,” Dizdar added. … For Anthem Prep, Makayla Roe (29 goals, leading scorer last two years), Katherin Coats (three-year returner, sweeper) and Sydney Garretson (10 goals, 7 assists, “all around great player) are the weapons. Garretson has overcome two ACL tears… “They (players) are willing to play anywhere on the field at any given time,” coach Robin Meelhuysen said. … This is the second time Anthem Prep has reached the playoffs since the program started three years ago. It won a state title last year. … The team lost two starters from last year’s team with season ending injuries, forcing them to play with 14 players, including four freshmen. They played a tournament with nine players and still won two games and tied another team. “It has been great to see each of the these girls step up and play where they are needed no matter if they have played that position before or not,” coach Robin Meelhuysen said. 

No. 15 River Valley (13-3) vs. No. 2 Gilbert Christian (14-1-1): For River Valley, second-year coach Edward Marquez has led the program to its best ever two seasons. … The team has outscored its opponents 58-13 this year. … Senior Shanya Marquez has 17 goals and 10 assists. … Junior Mikayla Dillon-Wilkie has 10 goals. … For Gilbert Christian, the program returned most of its players from last year’s first go around in the AIA. … “We set a goal at the beginning of the season to win the state championship,” coach Jay Feely said. “I believe it’s attainable.” … Michaela Burke is the team’s best player. She missed eight games this year but still scored 32 goals. “She is strong and physical with a very big leg,” Feely said. “She will win the ball in the air and has great poise to finish when given the opportunity.” … Ambria Krahling is the team’s playmaker and has 15 goals and 28 assists. … Center defender Shannen Kelly “is aggressive and fast and converges on the ball quickly.” … Sharaiah Eddy is a freshman and has “great recovery skills and rarely gets beat.” … Lexi Feely, a sophomore defender, is “feisty and drives forwards crazy.” … Feely played in the NFL for 14 years, including a 4-year stint with the Cardinals.

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