Corona del Sol girls soccer coach Matt Smith doesn’t know what would have happened if his team, rather than Xavier, had met up with Desert Vista in the 5A girls soccer championship last year.
The Aztecs were, after all, the only team to defeat the Thunder last season, and they were able to do it three times over the course of the year.
"We ran into the wrong team on the wrong day," Smith said of Corona’s shootout loss to Xavier in the state semifinal.
But Smith said he’s anything but disappointed with the way his team’s season played out, even if the Aztecs, who finished 27-1-1 overall, had the goods necessary to hoist a championship trophy.
"Last year’s team was as much fun as I’ve ever had coaching at any level," Smith said. "They were a joy. All they wanted to do was play soccer and they wanted to win every time they stepped on the field."
Smith’s Aztecs are in the driver’s seat to have even more fun this year, as gunners Alexa Daiutolo, Courtney Mayers and Alexis Burkhart, who combined to score 45 goals a year ago, all return.
But the Aztecs aren’t the only East Valley team with a shot at a title, let alone the only Central Region program. Mountain Pointe and defending champ Desert Vista are also expected to compete for the 5A Division I crown. East Valley Region foes Red Mountain and Dobson, led by forward Krista Mirabelli, who scored 28 goals as a junior last year, will also compete for 5A-I’s top spot.
Krista Mirabelli, Dobson: Senior forward scored 28 goals to lead the Mustangs to the 5A quarterfinals last season.
Stephanie Phillips, Corona: Sophomore goalkeeper tallied 12 shutouts, .82 GAA in 28 games as a freshman.
Danica Webb and Samantha Roberts, Higley: Webb, a junior forward, and Roberts, a sophomore midfielder, each led the state with 49 goals and 44 assists, respectively.
Bethany Wikfors and Lindsay Cerqua, Red Mountain: Senior defensive duo returns in an attempt to lead the Mountain Lions to a game better than last season’s 5A semifinal appearance.
Jessica Bowen, Chaparral: Junior goalkeeper notched 17 shutouts in 22 games last season to lead the Firebirds to the 4A semifinals.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
Shelby Snyder, Mesa , Sr., GK/MF; Alexandra Elston, Mountain Pointe, Jr., MF; Alexa Daiutolo, Corona del Sol, Jr., MF; Courtney Mayers, Corona del Sol, So., F; Andrea Clark, Dobson, Jr., MF Alex Ciliento, Horizon, Jr., F; Rinda Romney, Basha, Sr., F; Olivia Kuby, Tempe Prep, So., F; Lizzy Rainey, Chaparral, Sr., D; Maggie Keasler, Chaparral, Sr., D; Cassie Smith, Cactus Shadows, Jr., MF; Katie Blomberg, Seton Catholic, Jr., D; Ashley Jimenez, Basha, So., D; Caitlin Griffin, Cactus Shadows, Sr., D; Mari Greenberg, Desert Mountain, So., F
DID YOU KNOW?
Family ties: Desert Vista junior midfielder Kara Miller is the sister of Arizona State football players Brent and Zach Miller. Brent is a reserve tight end/H-back for the Sun Devils, while Zach, a tight end, is the reigning Pac-10 offensive freshman of the year.
Reloading: Chaparral may have lost 2004-05 Tribune player of the year Lauren Shapiro to graduation, but that doesn’t mean the Firebirds aren’t without some punch this year. All-Tribune honorees Tessa Meland, Maggie Keasler, Lizzy Rainey, Allison Roth, Jessica Bowen and Kristi Ansboury all return.
Coaching carousel: Desert Vista knocked off Xavier in the 5A title game last season. Both teams introduce new coaches this year, with Barbara Chura taking over for Karla Thompson at Xavier and Pierson Hamilton replacing Bill Bohach at Desert Vista. Hamilton will attempt to lead the Thunder to their third consecutive title game under three different coaches.
Coaching carousel, part II: Seton Catholic will also try to repeat as champion with a new coach. The Sentinels have won four consecutive 1A-3A titles, the first three under Daryl Chavez before winning last season under Ladislav Zbozinek. Casey Tate is in charge this year.
Welcome Gophers: Florence moved up from 2A to 3A this year and the Gophers will field a girls soccer team for the first time.
5A DIVISION I
1. Corona del Sol 2. Xavier 3. Red Mountain 4. Desert Vista 5. Dobson
5A DIVISION II
1. Desert Mountain 2. Ironwood 3. Flowing Wells 4. Sunrise Mountain 5. Centennial
4A DIVISION I
1. Catalina Foothills 2. Cactus 3. Chaparral 4. Sahuaro 5. Canyon del Oro
4A DIVISION II
1. Cactus Shadows 2. Flagstaff 3. Higley 4. Mohave 5. Bradshaw Mountain
Tuesday: The 5A and 4A seasons open with a full slate of contests throughout the East Valley.
Dec. 5-9: The season gets into full swing with the Fiesta Bowl Tournament at Tempe Sports Complex. Class 5A girls and boys defending champions from Desert Vista as well as girls preseason favorites Corona del Sol (5A-I) and Desert Mountain (5A-II) will participate.
Jan 23-28: Region tournaments
Jan 30-Feb. 11: State tournaments