Building a high school sports event that can be called a ‘national’ tournament takes time. But you have to begin somewhere.
That’s what the Phoenix Regional Sports Commission did last week as it kicked off the inaugural Arizona Soccer Showcase. A sprinkling of out-of-state entries gave it a little of that national flavor.
Five of the boys’ teams in a field of 24 were from outside the Arizona borders, while three of the 20 girls’ entries represented other states.
But it’s a start to what promises to be a nice addition to the holiday tournament menu for high school soccer. And an additional opportunity for college recruiters to take in the talent, as a dozen colleges sent representatives to the tournament.
The Showcase could evolve much the way the Nike Tournament of Champions has for girls basketball. That event, held in Chandler every year, has attracted a field of some of the best high school teams in the country. But, then, they’ve been doing it for 11 years now.
And the TofC has the marketing clout and national reach of the shoe giant. The Phoenix Regional Sports Commission is a county governmental organization that puts its efforts behind attracting major sporting events to promote tourism. This new effort is just one of many.
The Commission points out that the primary purpose of this new tournament is to help raise Arizona’s local and national soccer profile.
And the visibility of the new Soccer Showcase had to be enhanced when a team from Hawaii won the girls’ side of the event. The fact that ‘Iolani School had to beat a local team to claim the title also helped generate local interest.
‘Iolani rolled undefeated through the four-day tournament to run its season’s record to 10-0-2, eventually claiming the crown by beating Cactus Shadows High School from Cave Creek, 1-0.
Cactus Shadows, the No. 3-ranked team in Division II, was coming off a 3-1 loss to No. 1 Catalina Foothills going into the tournament. But the Falcons rebounded by beating Mountain Pointe High School, 1-0, in the opening game and then went on to defeat Williams Field High School (8-0) and Saguaro High in a 1-1 quarterfinal game that was decided on penalty kicks.
Catalina Foothills was not entered in this event, so there was no opportunity for a re-match.
On the boys’ side, Brophy Prep from Phoenix got two goals from last year’s Big Schools Player of the Year, Riggs Lennon, to beat Gilbert High School in the championship game, 4-2.
The Broncos, last year’s 5A-I state champion, struggled in their opener as Catalina Foothills High School played them to a 1-1 tie and then squeaked past Ironwood High School, 1-0, in the quarterfinals to make it to the semi-finals, where they beat Hamilton High School, 2-1.
Brophy was ranked No. 2 in Division I entering the Showcase, behind No. 1 Chaparral High School, which lost to Ironwood Ridge, 4-1, in the quarterfinal round.
Hamilton, the No. 3 team in Division I, took on Servite High School in the quarterfinals and beat the No. 1-ranked team in California, 1-0.
Ryan Grotjohn, the junior midfielder for Brophy, was named the event’s MVP.