Xavier Prep‘s new 6A soccer title is just the latest championship achievement in a school year that may go down as one of the best in the history of the small Catholic school in central Phoenix.
Next up would be a title in girls’ basketball. And the Gators are working on that.
Xavier has already loaded the trophy case with a state championship in swimming by outscoring runner-up Chaparral High School, 321-263, for the title win going away.
The Gators had strung together 14 straight titles before Desert Vista High broke their hold on the sport by winning the 2013 championship. It has taken Xavier four years to get back on top.
This year’s team had lost their head coach when Maureen Rankin lost her battle with cancer and her husband, Mark, took the reins to finish out the season. So the Gators had plenty of emotional motivation to win this title for their fallen coach and the Rankins’ daughter, Mia, who is a freshman on the team.
The volleyball championship that the Gators won in November was also that program’s first in the last four years. But this group had more than motivation this season. They found the key to beating the defending champion, Tempe’s Corona del Sol High School — something no other school could figure out. Corona lost all three times they played Xavier over the course of the regular season and in the state final, the only losses on the Aztecs’ march to a 41-3 record.
And now Xavier has completed the hat trick by winning its third title this year, this time in soccer. And they did it with a young team that included just five seniors.
Perry High School, on the other hand, had seven seniors in its starting line-up to provide the leadership the Pumas needed to roll out a 22-3 season and earn the No. 2 seed in the state tournament. The meeting with Xavier (16-3-2) in the finals set up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 match-up at Camp Verde High School in Gilbert.
The outcome was decided by a single goal. Nicole Hook, Xavier’s senior center back, took a corner kick from Abby Hubbard and used a picture-perfect header to provide the 1-0 victory. Fortunately for Xavier, Hook was able to return to the game after breaking her nose early in the game, just in time to punch the ball into the net in the 58th minute.
As she had throughout the playoffs, Xavier goalkeeper Kinsey Ehmann managed to protect the slim lead the rest of the way. The senior, who will suit up for Pepperdine next year, played a pivotal role in helping the Gators shut out all four opponents during the state tourney to lead Xavier to its 10th soccer title in school history. Five of those titles have come under head coach Barbara Chura.
For Perry, this loss in the finals just piles on the frustration after the Pumas also lost in the 2014 finals. Both times they fell 1-0.
And now fifth-seeded Xavier is going for an improbable fourth title as it begins making its way through the state basketball brackets. They have a team that’s capable of making its way into the title game, but it won’t be easy.
They ran over No. 12 Horizon High in a 52-23 rout in the opening round. But they will probably have to get past top-seeded Millennium High School in order to get a shot at their fourth championship.
But right now the Gators are too busy basking in the glow of their third title this year to worry about whether they get any more.