Desert Vista junior Maddison Schroeder (13) and Xavier senior Katie Moore (21) chase down the field for control of the ball on Saturday at Campo Verde High.

(Jesse Stawnyczy/AFN Staff Photographer)

The Xavier College Prep Gators claimed the girls’ soccer 6A state championship Saturday afternoon at Campo Verde with a 2-0 victory over the Desert Vista Thunder.

Holding a two-goal lead while the ball rolled around the midfield line, the bench of the Xavier College Prep girls’ soccer team counted down the final 10 seconds of the state title game loud enough for the fans sitting in the top row of the bleachers to hear crystal clear.

The girls tiptoed the sideline, holding one another back behind the white chalk so no one fell over it in excitement as they prepared to pounce their teammates in celebration of the state championship they had just earned.

At the sound of the final whistle, the girls bolted toward midfield and embraced each other in a dog pile. It was the only way to validate all the hard work they had put in over the past 80 minutes to earn the title of state champion.

 “This game, to me, it’s not about coaches,” said Xavier Prep head coach Barbara Chura. “It’s about the team and their determination and heart for one another. They have all the ingredients that all combined for success, and there’s no mistake that they’re the state champs because they work for it and they earned it.”

The tie-breaking goal came only six minutes into the second half. A Xavier College Prep throw-in bounced around the goalie box for what seemed like minutes (even though it was actually only about 10 seconds) before senior midfielder Quiqui Hita kicked the ball off the bottom of the crossbar and ricocheted centimeters behind the goal line.

The second goal came only eight minutes later. Sophomore forward Kyla Ferry crossed over her defender, putting her on the ground. She followed up the move with a booming strike from just outside the top of the goal box that zoomed past the Thunder goalkeeper into the right side of the net.

“I always say these higher-level games come down to set pieces,” Chura said. “The first goal was a throw-in that turned into a rocket goal. The second one I forget how it developed, but when Kyla Ferry is faced up anywhere around the goal, my money is on her to put it in. She is just another level player, and she’s only a sophomore. She’s done it all year.”

It was a tough eight-minute stretch for the Thunder, who only gave up seven goals all season long. They posted a shutout in each of the three games on their way to their third consecutive 6A state title game as well.

“It was tough to see us concede back-to-back because that is so unlike us,” Desert Vista head coach Marvin Hypolite said. “But I’m not going to take anything away from my players. They fight, they play with heart, they play with grit, and you see on the back of their shirts we’re one family.”

The win improved Xavier Prep to 14-1-3 to cap off the season, while Desert Vista fell to 19-4-1. The Gators did not lose a game in 2017 or find themselves on the losing end of a match in the state of Arizona this season. Their lone loss came in December in California.

The title is made even sweeter by how close the Gators came to the championship last season. Xavier Prep was the top seed in last year’s tournament, falling 1-0 in a tight game with Hamilton in the semifinals.

“This year it felt different because we’re a much older, much more experienced team,” said Xavier Prep junior midfielder Mady Chait. “Last year, we were just a group of young players, but this season we became a team of junior and senior leaders that just felt like we could do it.”

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