Each year at this time, the holiday break from school provides high school sports teams the opportunity to jump into one of the many early-season tournaments going on throughout the state, and this weekend offered up some of the best soccer big-school competition with the anual Tempe Diablos Soccer Classic.
Played at the Tempe Sports Complex, the Diablos tournament finals featured some of the best teams in Division I. Both the boys teams and girls teams that reached the finals were undefeated so far this season.
On the boys side, Chandler High School came into the championship match after beating Gilbert High, which was also an unbeaten team to that point, in the semi-finals. The Wolves dominated Gilbert in the 3-0 semi-final victory to earn the right to meet Hamilton High, which defeated Desert Vista High in the semis, 2-0.
Hamilton, which has played in the tournament championship each of the past four years, won this one, 2-0.
Hamilton (8-0) has been dominant in the early going this season and carried that swagger throughout this tournament, winning all five games it played and allowing just one goal in five games while running up 14 points on its opponents. The Huskies were too much for a good Chandler team in the final and now have won the tourney title three of the last four years.
A goal off a header by Connor Follet in the15th minute put the Huskies up 1-0, and Gabe Para-Munoz shut the door on the win midway through the second half when he poked the second score in from in front of the net.
This was the first loss of the season for the Wolves (6-1), who have a deep team this year that includes six players who were in last season’s starting line-up. And they’ll have another chance to beat their intra-city rival on Tuesday when they meet again.
Hamilton had a chance to sweep the tournament titles, but its girls team came up short, falling to Highland High, 1-0, in the championship game. Highland had to come from behind in the semi-final win against Desert Vista High School to earn the title match, which turned out to be another game between unbeaten teams.
The Huskies (6-1-1), who feature a couple of college Division I-commit players in its talented line-up, faltered for the first time this season in the opening game of the tournament when it played to a 2-2 tie before running off three straight shut-outs to get to the championship game.
But a long-range goal in the 17th minute by Carley Cope, combined with a string of huge saves by goal keeper Amanda Witherow, was too much for Hamilton. The win runs Highland’s season record to 6-0 as it begins its first season under its new head coach, Andy Barber.