Chandler, Queen Creek win first-ever state soccer titles

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                </div>  “We think it’s the year of the wolf,” Cori Ghougassian told Arizona Republic writer Richard Obert after his Chandler High School soccer team beat Brophy Prep in Thursday’s state […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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“We think it’s the year of the wolf,” Cori Ghougassian told Arizona Republic writer Richard Obert after his Chandler High School soccer team beat Brophy Prep in Thursday’s state semifinals.  Now it’s a certainty.

The Chandler Woves beat the two-time defending Division I state champs 3-2 to move on to a match-up with Sandra Day O’Connor High School for this year’s state title – the school’s first-ever boys’ title in the sport.

When they beat O’Connor yesterday for the title, it just added to a year of historic ‘firsts’ for Chandler High.  Just a couple of months ago, the Wolves’ football team also ended another long drought as Chandler beat neighboring rival Hamilton High for the school’s first-ever state championship in that sport.

It was an unlikely pairing between the No. 7-seeded Chandler and No. 9 O’Connor, but it was played as well as if it had been a meeting of the top-seeded teams in the tournament, eventually culminating in a 3-2 Chandler win. Both teams used a fast-paced offense that kept the fans that showed up at Campo Verde High School‘s soccer field closely involved with the action throughout.

Midfielder Frank Stein drew first blood for Chandler with a goal just seven minutes into the game.  O’Connor answered in the 24th minute when Musa Morris scored off a corner kick, and the teams went into halftime all tied up at 1-1.

Chandler took the lead back when Carter Rumsey scored in the 50th minute, and then added an insurance goal by Daniel Corona 20 minutes later.  A header by midfielder George Ekdahl pulled O’Connor to within one, but it wasn’t enough to pull this one out.

And it appears this is also becoming the year of the dog.

The Queen Creek High Bulldogs, playing in Division II, also captured their first boys’ state soccer title with a 3-0 win over San Luis High.  It was the end of a frustrating quest for a title that has brought the Bulldogs as far as the state semifinals three times, but no further.

San Luis, a ‘Cinderella’ team that came into the tournament as a No. 11 seed, had not been held scoreless all season – but faced a team that had blanked all three of its post-season opponents leading up to the title game, outscoring them by a combined 9-0.  So the 3-0 loss in the title game was a stunning end to a 12-win season that carried the Sidewinders to just their second opportunity for a shot at the state title; they lost in the 2006 championship to Ironwood High School.

But San Luis, like so many other teams, had no answer for Queen Creek’s senior scoring tandem of Jacob Dominguez and Benji Delgadillo.  They have led the Bulldogs to a 16-3-2 record, a No. 1 seed in the state tournament, and finally a state championship.  Delgadillo scored the first goal of the title game in the first half, but Dominguez added the two insurance goals in the second half to end San Luis’ improbable run to be able to play for its own first-ever state soccer title.

But give credit, too, to Felix Amenda, the team’s junior goal keeper who enabled the Bulldogs to post all those shut-outs.  The 6’2″ keeper held off San Luis in the early going of the title game, when they had a couple of opportunities to score and could have changed the momentum of the game.

On the girls’ side, there weren’t any first-time champions crowned in the top two divisions – but the suspense and excitement generated in the title games went beyond anything the boys could offer.

The Division I title game went into two overtimes before Highland High School pulled out the 1-0 victory over Desert Vista High School when Brianna Hatch closed out her high school career by scoring the game-winning goal with less than 10 seconds left to play in the second overtime.

The two teams had split a pair of games in the regular season, so it was a good bet this final game would be a good one.  But no one could have anticipated the level of drama it reached.

Highland’s prolific senior forward finished the season with 20 goals, but none more important than the last.  She led the Hawks to a 24-2-1 record and a state title before heading off to play for Brigham Young University in the fall.

How hard is it to score against No. 3 seed Desert Vista?  The Thunder (18-4-1) have given up just five goals all season and this team looked like it might be the one to finally break through to a championship after five Desert Vista teams in the last 11 years have made it to the title game, but never claimed the crown.

In Division II, it was another overtime finish as top-seeded Notre Dame Prep connected on all four of its penalty kicks in the shootout to win its second state championship.  The Saints’ 4-2 win over No. 11 Campo Verde High, which was attempting to win its second state title in three years, enabled them to wrap up a season undefeated, finishing 16-0-6.

But it was a nail-biting journey through the post-season for the Saints. as three of their games were decided on penalty kicks.  And Meredith Reinhardt, Notre Dame’s junior goal keeper, was in the net for every game and made perhaps her most important saves of the season when she stopped two of Campo Verde’s kicks in the shootout.