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San Luis hosts two of seven first-round matches involving area teams
To say the San Luis girls soccer team has some momentum heading into its first playoff game is an understatement.
The Sidewinders are fresh off a 1-0 penalty kick victory over Cibola, snapping the Raiders' 21-game Gila Valley Region winning streak. It also gave the Sidewinders their first region title after the teams split in the regular season. The Sidewinders won the tiebreaker with more Arizona Interscholastic Association power points.
Both the Raiders and Sidewinders host first-round games on Wednesday, just two of seven area teams to earn playoff berths. The other five teams start today.
"I mean, wow - I don't even know how to describe it in words," San Luis coach Ian McDougall said. "I'm proud of the girls because we fought all year long for every win. Nothing came easy for us. I think it meant more to them to beat Cibola that first time than to be region champions. I don't think the girls, even today, get the whole region champion thing. But they know they did something special by beating Cibola."
The Sidewinders earned the No. 8 seed in 5A-I and will face No. 9 Glendale-Mountain Ridge 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at The Snake Pit. Despite playing just seven region games, Montse Rodriguez led the team in scoring. Carolyn Sosa will be in goal for San Luis (8-4).
McDougall said the team not only got a momentum boost from beating Cibola, but a strategic one as well.
"We jumped from 11th to eighth," McDougall said. "That's the difference between going to a number six to having someone come here. I know from coaching in many sports for 10 years now that no team travels on a bus for four hours and gets off and plays well. Mentally it's huge for us hosting that first game."
Like the Sidewinders, the Raiders (9-3) earned the eighth seed, competing in the 5A-II classification. They'll battle No. 9 Scottsdale-Desert Mountain.
"Obviously all the teams in the state tournament are going to be very good teams," Cibola coach Mike Fritz said. "Anytime you want to win any state tournament game ... you have to play extremely well."
Stephanie Beltran led Cibola - winner of the first four GVR titles - with 22 goals. Carlee Davis will handle goalkeeping duties for the Raiders.
Both teams will likely be on the road against No. 1 seeds in the second round if they win; they would host the No. 16 seed if the No. 1 seed in their classes lose. San Luis' second-round game would be Saturday while Cibola's would be Friday.
While the San Luis girls are making their first trip, the Sidewinder boys are no strangers to the postseason, winning their seventh straight title and fifth straight Gila Valley crown, edging out Kofa in the power-point tiebreaker.
That edge in power points earned San Luis (12-1) the No. 3 seed and a home date with state power No. 14 Phoenix-Brophy, which despite its perennial runs at state titles - three state titles, the most recent in 2007 - lost four games this year.
"They've got some younger players but they're good. They're always good," San Luis coach Tim Conroy said. "Kids choose to go there for a reason. It's a tough draw for the first round, but at this point they're all tough."
Ricardo Ruiz scored 18 goals for the Sidewinders, while Erik Luzanilla scored 14. The team was shut out for the first time in its loss Friday to Kofa.
"We have to create more chances," Conroy said. "The last game we didn't create, and it was the first time we didn't score. Usually we've gotten our chances. Our defense has been solid all year so we're not concerned there. As long as our intensity is good we'll have a good result."
Jorge Elizalde will be in goal for the Sidewinders. Their GVR rivals, Kofa, earned the No. 4 seed and will host No. 13 Tucson. Both teams are playing in 5A-I for the first time.
"They separate them for a reason," Kofa coach Jamie Nicewander said. "These are the big dogs up here. We've got to bring our best. Our guys are pumped up and ready to show what they've got. Hopefully the ball bounces our way."
The Kings (11-1) set a school record for goals scored had three players reach the 20-goal mark this year - Jose Medina (26), Colby Carr (23) and Marcos Garcia (20). Counting tournament games, Jorge Valdez had 17 shutouts.
Despite the high seed, Nicewander said the team is taking nothing for granted.
"We know they're a very good team," Nicewander said. "They're going to come out ready to play. Anything can happen. You have to go in with your A game. You can't think you're going to have an easy time because this team is 12 or 13."
Both Kofa and San Luis will host second-round games Saturday if they win today.
And while the 5A boys' team got high seeds, the 1A/2A/3A teams ended up in the bottom half of the power-point rankings after both reaching the semifinals - and in the case of Antelope winning the state title. Last year, the Rams won the title despite starting the playoffs as the No. 9 seed.
The No. 12 Rams (7-6) open, as all 1A/2A/3A games do, on a neutral field. They'll face No. 5 Safford. Coach Sam Romine did not return messages left by The Yuma Sun.
The team they vanquished in the semifinals, Yuma Catholic, opens against No. 7 Fountain Hills. The No. 10 Shamrocks are led by Joe Gandara with 19 goals. Cody King will be in goal for the Shamrocks (8-4).
"We have to play the best we've played the whole season, really," coach Ralph Evans said. "If we played as well we have the last few games, then I think we have a chance. ... If we just play our game and don't panic we've got a really good chance."
The Shamrocks won state titles in 2004, 2006 and 2007 and were runners-up in 2005. Evans said that history is always on the minds of his players and is a strong motivational tool.
"We don't block it out. We're very mindful of our reputation and very proud of our school history," Evans said. "We want to continue that legacy so to speak. They want to do their share to perpetuate it. It's always at the front of their minds. I don't think it's intimidating to them."
The Yuma Catholic girls are also playoff bound, earning the No. 11 seed and drawing No. 6 Florence. Ali Quintana leads the Shamrocks (7-4) with 15 goals, but has missed the last two games and is questionable for today's game.
"We just have to get everyone healthy," coach Jesus Quintana said. "We haven't been at full strength in a long time because of illnesses and injuries. Hopefully we'll be able to play our game."
Quintana was injured three games ago against Northwest Christian, hurting her right foot. Coach Quintana said it would be a gametime decision if his daughter played.
All 1A/2A/3A games are today at Mesa's Red Mountain Park, also home of Saturday's second round. The Antelope boys play at 4 p.m. on Field 3, while the YC boys play at the same time on Field 6. The YC girls play at 6 p.m. on Field 2.