Soccer teams ready for quarterfinals
The semifinals of the state tournament isn't uncharted territory for Kofa coach Jamie Nicewander or San Luis' Tim Conroy, but it may be for their players.
The Kings and Sidewinders will both attempt to get past the quarterfinals of the 5A-I state tournament for the first time in four years on Saturday.
The No. 4 Kings will host No. 5 Tempe-Corona del Sol at 1 p.m. and the No. 3 Sidewinders will host No. 6 Gilbert at 1:30 p.m. The No. 8 San Luis' girls team will also be in action as they head to Phoenix to play No. 1 Xavier Prep on Saturday. In the 1A/2A/3A state tournament, the No. 11 Yuma Catholic's girls team will travel to the Phoenix area to take on No. 3 Fountain Hills at Red Mountain Park.
Though Conroy led the Sidewinders to the 2006 championship match of the 5A-II state tournament, his last three attempts have fallen short of his state title aspirations. But he said that his players don't think there is any mystique with regard to the state tournament's semifinals.
"I probably think about it more than they do," Conroy said. "I thought we were the favorite the past three years, but things happened. We just control the things we can control. You can't control the decisions that are made on the field, like bad bounces. You just go out and play hard and trust your preparation and your instincts."
The Tigers (10-3 overall) defeated Maryvale in the first round of the tournament to advance to the quarterfinals. Gilbert was anticipated to break into the top four of the AIA's power rankings, but a season-finale loss to Gilbert-Mesquite dropped the Tigers to the No. 6 seed.
"I was a little surprised to see them lose their game to Mesquite," Conroy said. "We thought that if they won that game, they'd move up to the No. 3 seed in the tournament."
Instead the Kings filled that void with a win against the Sidewinders in the final game of the regular season. Kofa was then able to secure the No. 4 seed and ensure home-field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Nicewander will lead his team against Corona del Sol, which finished the regular season 11-1. The only blemish came against Phoenix-Brophy, which was downed by San Luis 4-2 in the first round of the tournament.
Nicewander said that the style of play offered by the Aztecs.
"They have a little different style, there style is to go direct to goal," Nicewander said. "We know they have a very powerful throw-ins, they'll put the ball from the sideline to the goal almost every chance that they get."
Like Conroy, Nicewander said that he and his team are not fazed by their past performances in the state tournament and that he expects his team to have a successful outing against Corona del Sol.
"The last three years we've always lost to the state finalist or state champion," Nicewander said. "Every year is different, the way we look at it is we're lucky to have a program that makes it that far every year."
Nicewander said that the success of Kofa rests on whether his team can control the pace and the tempo of the game.
"If we stick to our game plan and play Kofa soccer we should do pretty well out there," Nicewander said. "Corona del Sol, everyone picked them to win state, it'll be nice to get a chance to show them how well we play. We're excited to say the least.