Xavier Prep took care of the offense it needed before players worked up a sweat Wednesday night and tacked on a controversial penalty kick late in the second half to post a 2-0 victory over high-scoring No. 6 seed Perry in a 6A soccer semifinal match at Campo Verde High School.
Xavier returns to the big-school final on Saturday for the first time since it won it all in 2013. The Gators opponent in the championship game is the team it beat in the 2013 final, Desert Vista. Desert Vista advanced with a 2-0 triumph over Corona del Sol. The title game is set for Saturday at 2:30 at Campo Verde. Xavier and Desert Vista played to a 1-1 tie back on Jan. 23. Perry closed out the year 21-3-1.
The semifinal meeting was the second this season between the teams. Xavier won the late January matchup 1-0 -- the difference an own goal in the latter part of the second half. In the rematch it took four minutes for Xavier to score. The Gators did it on their own this time.
Quiqui Hita, Xavier's second-leading scorer for the season, ripped home a shot from about 15 yards out netting it far post from the right side.
"That was the best opportunity we had in the first half," Xavier coach Barb Chura said. "And she put it away. We've worked in practice on finishing and she did."
Xavier (14-1-3) dominated the first half and most of the contest. The Gators kept Perry's scoring triumvirate of Amanda Dahl, Kiara Parker and Kelly Cannistra in check. Perry threatened more late in the match, but that was when desperation seeped in after Xavier took a 2-0 lead on Kyla Ferry's penalty kick. Chura credited her back line that includes Nicole Hook, Lauren O'Sullivan and Katie Moore with limiting Perry's chances.
"This team in all my years coaching may be my favorite," Chura said. "There is something about them. I'm happy we won tonight and even if we had lost tonight I would have been happy. That's how good this team makes me feel."
The foul that sent Ferry for the PK was called on Perry keeper Makayla Aman. Aman was on the ground covering a loose ball. Xavier contended the ball wasn't in Aman's control and Aman shoved a Xavier player off her trying for possession. Perry felt Aman had possession and play should have been stopped.
"I don't know how much that affected the game," Perry coach John Roberts said. "Kids are impressionable. ...
"It's tough to lose at this stage. You put in all the work you do and end up not reaping the rewards. We have a lot of players who'll be back next year. The 2017-2018 season starts tomorrow."
Perry scored a whopping 138 goals for the year. But in its three losses (Desert Vista, Xavier twice) and tie (Hamilton) the Pumas did not score.