Gilbert was a surprise team last season that survived an injury to its top goalkeeper to capture the Fiesta Region title, reach the state quarterfinals and compile a 15-5-1 record.
With two experienced goalkeepers returning — Jessica Elley and Rachel Wallace were the first- and second-team All-Fiesta Region picks, respectively — and the same versatility and experience that helped them last season, it’s safe to say the Tigers won’t be sneaking up on anyone again.
"We don’t have two or three standout players," coach Ben Holzer said. "We have 21 good soccer players. We have a very versatile team."
Gilbert will be trying to knock off defending 5A champion Horizon, which also has a pair of quality goalkeepers. Coach Todd Garelick raised more than a few eyebrows when he announced that his first-team all-region goalkeeper, Megan Currey, who allowed four goals in 25 games last season, will be switched to the midfield.
"Everyone is going to ask if I’m crazy," Garelick said. "But, we need to prepare for the future."
TOP 5 PLAYERS
Claire Bodiya, Amanda Urtu- Kelly Pohle, Horizon: Senior zuastegui, Red Horizon: Junior was a part of Mountain: Se- goalkeeper is the Horizon nior midfielder not a big name defense that was all-East yet, but her allowed only Valley last ability to step four goals in season, and is into the nets 25 games dur- heading to the allows the ing last sea- University of defending son’s state Arizona next state champs title run. year. to move
Megan Currey Lauren Shapiro, Shalyn Scott, to the mid-Chaparral: Jun- Corona del Sol: field. ior forward Senior forwas the Tri- ward is the bune’s Class two-time Cen-4A-2A player tral Region of the year player of after scoring the year. 25 goals last season.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jen Christoffers, Des. Vista, Jr. MF Megan Currey, Horizon, Sr., MF Carly Dobratz, Highland, So., F Blain Dugan, Corona del Sol, Sr., MF Jessica Elley, Gilbert, Jr., GK Mallory Fox, Horizon, So., MF Kristin Gurrola, Red Mountain, Sr., D Shaye Harrel, Horizon, Sr., MF Katie Heath, Mesquite, Sr., D Liz Herber, Desert Mountain, Sr., GK Chris Hughes, Mtn. Pointe, Jr., MF Cami Keller, Mountain View, Jr., MF Nicki Lavely, Gilbert, So., F Stefanie Marasco, Desert Mtn., Sr., F Melissa Miller, Mtn. Pointe, Sr., MF Amanda Ritchie, Gilbert, Sr. MF Ashley Wise, Red Mountain, Jr., MF
Asia Alcorn, Coronado, Jr., D Kristere Agudo, Seton, Sr., D. Anne Barry, Pinnacle, Jr., MF Brittany Davis, Chaparral, Jr., D Lisa Faulkner, Coronado, Sr., F Janna Feeley, Seton, Sr., MF Shannon Kusmit, Pinnacle, Sr., MF Kerry Lane, Saguaro, Sr., D Amanda Rademaker, Chaparral, Sr., F Liz Ray, Chaparral, Sr., MF Halegh Sakas, Seton, Jr., GK Katie Sauer, Cac. Shadows, Jr., MF Lisa Shumway, McClintock, Sr., D Emily Stubbs, Saguaro, Jr., D Amanda Wessel, Seton, Jr., F Megan Wilson, McClintock, Sr., MF
Dec. 8-12: Fiesta Bowl Tournament
Dec. 29-Jan. 3:
Mustang Classic at Red Mountain Park, Mesa
Jan. 26-Jan. 31:
Feb. 2-14: State
TEAMS TO WATCH
Horizon: Defending 5A champs will have to restructure their offense around youth, but still have tough defense.
Xavier: Perennial power figures to reload and push Horizon for the Desert Valley Region title.
Gilbert: Defending Fiesta Region champs nearly topped state champion Horizon in the quarterfinals last season.
Red Mountain: Midfielder Amanda Urtuzuastegui has a hard surname to pronounce and is hard to stop. She’s one of 10 returning players along with midfielder Ashley Wise, both All-East Valley first-teamers a year ago.
Desert Vista: Ten starters return from team that had its highest finish (second) in the Central Region during Kirk Nelson’s seven years as coach.
Corona del Sol: Blain Dugan and Shalyn Scott, the region player of the year, return from a team that reached the state semifinals last season.
Desert Mountain: Central Region winner moves into the difficult Desert Valley Region with Horizon and Xavier. All-East Valley first-teamer Stefanie Marasco leads the offense.
Sabino: Dropped from Class 5A and could be a force at 4A.
Chaparral: Eight starters return, including 4A All-East Valley player of the year Lauren Shapiro, and Liz Ray.
Seton: Class 3A champs would love to play at the 4A level, but will have to settle for dominating 3A again. Janna Feeley and Amanda Wessel return to lead the offense.
New neighbors: Talented Desert Mountain captured the Central Region title last season, but will be hard-pressed to do the same after moving to the Desert Valley Region this season alongside Horizon and Xavier.
Dropping down: Tucson Sabino has dropped from Class 5A to Class 4A.
Take three: The new Class 4A state tournament alignment will allow 24 teams, up from 16, meaning three from each region will make the field.