The Yuma Catholic boys’ soccer team is steaming through the state tournament on the way to becoming just the third boys’ prep program in state history to win four consecutive titles.
And this year, the Yuma Catholic girls are making a bid to bring home their own championship hardware. With just two games remaining, both teams are still alive.
(*Update: The YC boys overwhelmed Arizona College Prep in the title game, scoring three goals well before halftime and finishing with a 5-1 victory to secure their fourth consecutive state championship, becoming just the third boys soccer program in the state to accomplish the feat. The girls lost to Casteel High, 2-1, in the final.)
The YC boys will play Casteel High School from Queen Creek in Friday’s 3A semifinal game, while the girls take on Fountain Hills High School in their semifinal contest tomorrow night. The boys will be getting the lion’s share of attention since they are bidding for a place in the state high school record books, but the Shamrock girls are a story in themselves since they have been knocking on the door the last few years, but haven’t been able to push through to get to the title game.
The girls made it into the playoffs the last four years, got to the second round two years ago, and to the semifinals in 2014. Now, they are back in the semis, just one game away from a shot at the championship.
The YC boys have had little trouble getting to this point in the tourney, destroying River Valley High School, 11-1, in the first round and then blanking No. 7-seeded NFL YET College Prep Academy, 2-0, in the quarterfinals. NFL YET, a Chandler school in just its third year of competition, was the 3A state runner-up last year.
However, the girls had to climb a steep hill to get to tomorrow’s game. After opening with a 5-0 victory over Anthem Prep, it took a 5-4 advantage in penalty kicks to break a 0-0 deadlock in regulation against No. 3 Veritas Prep to earn the right to advance.
After starting the schedule 3-2, the YC girls haven’t lost a game since mid-December and have only been scored upon in seven games. With a young team that includes just four seniors, the Shamrocks have gone undefeated in conference play and during Region 6 games.
Conversely, the boys’ team, which is seeded No. 2 behind Arizona College Prep, lost just one senior from a roster that posted 17 wins last year. This year’s squad is 14-0.
If Yuma Catholic beats No. 3 Casteel tomorrow — no easy task since the Colts (14-2) have given up just one goal in the last seven games — Arizona College Prep, which has won 15 games and tied two, can set up a title game between the top two seeds by beating Tucson’s Sabino High, the No. 12 seed, in that semifinal game.
The Shamrocks have a strong and fast defense, a deep bench, and a couple of the top goal-producers in the state to fuel the offense. Junior forward Eleuterio Gutierrez leads the team with 28 goals this season, while senior forward Ramon Urbano is just off his pace with 26.
Yuma Catholic also has one of the stingiest defenses in the state, thanks in large part to the work of senior goal keeper Rush Vance. The Shamrocks have posted 12 shutouts this season and Vance has averaged just a shade under two saves per game.
Both boys’ and girls’ semis will be at Williams Field High School in Gilbert, with game time both nights 7 p.m. Finals are Feb. 10.