The amount of emotion that poured out of Rachel Ressler nearly matched the sweat and dedication she put into her Desert Vista soccer career.
The difference was her career while wearing the Thunder’s trademark royal blue was over so all that was left were tears.
After Desert Vista lost to Xavier in the Division I state championship game no one was more visibly upset than Ressler, who was one of the last players to leave the sideline at Campo Verde.
It was symbolic of her style of play and one of the reasons why Ressler was named first-team All-Tribune along with senior teammate Hannah Stevens.
Ressler gives everything she has until she has nothing left.
“You normally don’t get girls of her ability,” Desert Vista coach Marvin Hypolite said earlier this season. “She plays the game with intensity. She can have an attack mode or a defensive mode, whatever she needs. She can see the game quicker than most girls that I’ve coached. She gets the information and she knows what to do with it.”
The reason Ressler and the Thunder were left wondering was, in part, because of the play of Tribune Girls Soccer Player of the Year Kellie Peay of Xavier.
While the team practiced corner kicks, Xavier girls soccer coach Barb Chura would joke with Peay, a defender, about never letting her standout defender move up to be a forward in those situations, even with Peay’s obvious header and ball-in-the-air skills.
Chura moved her up anyway, but during an early-round state tournament match, Peay estimated six chances to score off headers and missed each time.
She kept moving up, and it became fitting that the junior’s second goal of the season was a header off an Alexis Allard corner kick with barely nine minutes left in regulation which won the Division I state championship.
But only before and after she shut down Desert Vista in the back, capped by a nice gash across her head suffered during a collision.
“It was super weird, but it worked out,” Peay said.
Welcome to the 2012-2013 version of Xavier. Of the 25 kids on the roster, 15 missed at least a week due to illness or injuries. Three were lost for the season, and another gaping offensive hole was created when Nikki Walts transferred to Desert Mountain in early January.
Peay, defensive teammate Amanda Lane, Michaela Dooley and Cassidy Cunningham were left. The rest became something of a rotation of kids in and out of the lineup, many called up from JV one day and in the starting lineup the next day.
“Everyone was getting injured we figured they would be back, but when we realized they weren’t, we started getting nervous, especially after Nikki leaving,” she said. “I needed to step up and tell people what to do, where to be. The JV girls did awesome and I thought we had it and then everything started happening, but then wondered maybe about next year. Getting (to the championship game), then we felt like we could do it.”
Peay isn’t the Tribune Player of the Year simply because she had the state championship-winning goal, but because of her defensive prowess, organization, skills and led Xavier’s lockdown defense through a mish mash of lineup changes and kids who’d either not played varsity soccer, or defense, during the 2012-2013 season.
She was often the last woman standing, and was the most impactful defender on the field in the month of February.
“It was fitting for everything she was this year,” Chura said of the final goal. “She’s the glue. She does everything that doesn’t show up in a box score. The circus that it was back there, she was the stable one.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-6576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Jason P. Skoda contributed to this story.
All-Tribune First Team
Name Team Yr, Pos. Comment
Jorian Baucom Pinnacle Jr. F Continuing potentially-historic career with 29 goals, five assists
Ashley Hatch Highland Sr. F Former POY worthy again after 44 goals, nine assists for Div. I semifinalist;
Michaela Dooley Xavier Sr. F POY candidate again with 25 goals, 10 assists while being marked by two, three defenders
Kelsey Cartwright Corona del Sol Sr. MF Leader of stifling defense headed to North Dakota
Jaden DeGracie Highland Sr. MF Eight goals, 47 assists; Lethal with her flip throw-ins and serves
Rachel Ressler Desert Vista Sr. MF All-State caliber playmaker in transition with her speed, agility for Div. I runners-up
Madison Reisdorf Notre Dame Sr. MF 16 goals in 14 games for Div. III semifinalists will play at Southern Methodist next year
Kellie Peay Xavier Jr. D Tribune POY because of her aggressiveness in the back; verbal committed to Santa Clara
Maddie Wolf Corona del Sol So. D Already become the defensive anchor for Aztecs
Katie Clemmons Chaparral Sr. D Heart and soul of Firebirds headed to Washington and Lee Univ.
Hannah Stevens Desert Vista Sr. D The backside anchor to Ressler of D.V.’s runner-up squad; DV allowed more than one goal once
Sam DeMarco Perry Sr. GK 0.96 goals against average, .978 save percentage, 8.6 saves per game for Pumas team
Player of the Year: Kellie Peay, Xavier
Coach of the Year: Barb Chura, Xavier: The Gators always have ample talent, but even rival coaches were impressed at how Xavier navigated through a season of unprecedented injuries and lineup changes, lose an elite scorer to transfer in early January and shut down Pinnacle and Desert Vista to win the Div. I championship
All-Tribune Second Team
Name Team Yr. Pos. Comment
Megan Hawkins Arcadia So. F Skill and power combo finished with 29 goals and seven assists and could have had more
Breanna Olson Campo Verde Sr. F Offensive catalyst had a huge postseason for Div. III champions
Cassidy Cunningham Xavier Sr. F The other (mostly-) constant with Peay and Dooley for Gators; reached 40 points
Jessica Carpenter Pinnacle Sr. MF Eight goals and 17 assists for Pioneers in helping feeding Baucom’s goals; solid defender
Shannon Costello Campo Verde Sr. MF Size, ball skills and clutch rolled into one, capped by winning goal in Div. III title match
Sydney Schroeder Red Mountain Sr. MF Two-time Mesa city POY after 15 goals, 5 assists; played a part in 50 percent of Lions’ goals
Stephanie Petre Corona del Sol Sr. MF New Mexico State signee led Aztecs in goals, assists and points as attacking midfielder
Alyssa Lamb Basha Jr. D Part of young, talented group of defenders emerging from Chandler district schools
Danielle Zeidler, Desert Mountain, Jr., D Size, speed, aggressiveness and excellent at free kicks
Julia Taffuri Notre Dame So. D Already top defender for Div. II semifinalists and all-Division selection
Paige Morris Highland Sr. D Excellent with ball in air; had either game-winning goal or assist eight times this season
Kendra Manship Pinnacle Sr. GK 13 shutouts and six goals allowed all season; 3-4 other GK also worthy of this spot
Honorable Mention (local teams only)
Desert Vista: Tatum Heeres, Fr., F; Kari Kastelic, Sr., D; Kaylee Glenn, Sr., D; Allison Richardson, Sr., MF; McKenna Rodriguez, Sr., D; Alexa Ryder, So., GK; Kelly Watson, Sr., MF; Kayla Weeks, Sr., F.
Memorable Moments from the 2012-2013 season
•Xavier’s wild winter: Despite its history of championships and another talented team, Xavier was in the weeds when it came to Division I state title contenders heading into the tournament. The Gators still had some top-notch talent, but were ravaged by injuries (concusions, torn ligaments and broken bones), illness and transfers in a three-month period. The Gators had as many as 10 players out at one point in the regular season. Despite fielding its smallest team in years, the Gators’ patched-up defense held tough in shutting out Red Mountain and (Marana) Mountain View, then winning a huge semifinal matchup, 2-1, against high-powered Pinnacle. (Arguably) the best defender in the state, Kellie Peay, fittingly scored the lone goal in a 1-0 championship victory against Desert Vista to conclude this improbable run.
•Campo Verde: After two consecutive exits in the quarterfinals, Campo Verde’s up-and-coming program officially arrived in Division III. New coach Rosanne Headley (second place in coach of the year consideration) inherited a strong group of juniors and seniors who were tired of coming up short, even with a school that only opened five years ago. After impressive regular season and tournament showings in beating Division II and I schools along the way, the No. 4-seeded Coyotes won three of four postseason matches — including the 1-0 win over Mingus in the championships match — by one goal, the latter of which became bittersweet when captain Meg McDowell suffered a torn ACL nine minutes into the match. After the Coyotes won the school’s first team sport state championship, McDowell limped around the field, trophy in hand.