Here are possible reasons why Danny Arrubla may have felt cursed:
Hamilton lost two consecutive state championship matches in nail-biting fashion, in which Hamilton had chances to win one or both of them. Arrubla, the team’s best offensive player, had to sit out this year’s Division I first-round playoff match against Avondale Westview because he’d contracted a stomach virus the night before, and had to watch by himself from the bleachers while still contagious as Westview took the early lead.
“This all had to happen now?” he said in hindsight.
But the Huskies came back and won, a theme that was repeated again during the playoffs. For a third time, the Huskies made the big-school championship match. Once again, they trailed 1-0 into the late minutes of the second half.
The Buffalo Bills phenomenon was on.
“I was a little worried. Riggs (Lennon) scored for Brophy and it was, ‘Ugh, it had to be this guy again.’ I kept reminding myself and everyone that this was our last game, we’re not giving up this game early. I felt like we’d given up a bit early (the previous two years).”
Along with better defense and a few requisite fortunate boucnces, teammate Jordan Fletcher turned the possible jinx off with two goals in a 110-minute, 2-1 victory for the school’s first state title, but it was Arrubla who led them there and unknowingly led himself to being the Tribune Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
Despite missing the first-round playoff match (and two other matches during the regular season), his 39 goals were a school record, including a state-record four goals in the semifinals against Chaparral.
That school record had been bantered about late last year, given Arrubla’s strong junior season. But that was about the end of his thought process until the Phoenix Carl Hayden match in the state quarterfinals, when he returned from his illness and scored his 35th of the season, a match-clinching goal in a 2-0 win that broke Tony Cascio’s record.
That’s not what he remembered most about the past four years — or four months — as he spoke from Colorado, where he was checking out a higher-level of soccer that he hopes to play at either Colorado, or perhaps Metro State University.
“I just wanted to win and the team to win,” he said. “It is a big deal but I think soccer is about the team, not ‘me, me, me.’ It was a good feeling in the Carl Hayden game knowing what had happened. As quick as it happened it went away. We had to get to the finals and I promised myself I wasn’t going to lose a third time.”
Memorable Moments from the 2011-2012 Season
Third try is true: An impressive-on-its-own third consecutive trip to the big-school state championship match for Hamilton was finally met with the ultimate reward. After losing in close calls to Corona del Sol (2010) and Brophy (2011) the previous two seasons, the Huskies got another shot at the Broncos. Things looked eerily similar yet again when a Riggs Lennon goal meant a 1-0 Hamilton deficit midway through the second half, but the Huskies had Jordan Fletcher. Both sides gave themselves chances that didn’t stick, until the soft-spoken junior midfielder redirected a corner kick to tie the match at 1-1 with 11 minutes left in regulation. After two overtimes and one sudden-death, Fletcher did it again and was hoisted up by his teammates a few minutes later after winning the first championship in school history.
Coronado reaches first title match: A team with two seniors and plenty of starting freshman and sophomores wasn’t short on confidence. Mike Tsorin’s Dons weren’t secrets during the regular season having earned the No. 3 seed in the Div. III state tournament, but a school with diverse backgrouunds of students while short on resources made the school’s first-ever championship run. Wins against Tucson Catalina, Gilbert Christian, and a late goal against Douglas set the stage for a title showdown with Phoenix Cortez. Coronado couldn’t convert a PK in the opening minute of the match, suffered a quick defensive lapse that led to a 1-0 Cortez lead and the Dons couldn’t convert its dominating possession time and numerous opportunities in a 1-0 loss.
Marcos de Niza’s turnaround: Coronado wasn’t the only feel-good story this season. Marcos de Niza won a total of seven matches in the previous three seasons, and hadn’t had a winning season (or postseason appearance) since 2007. Thanks to a shift in scheduling/alignment and former assistant Daryl Chavez’s work in replacing Greg Vanney, the Padres went 12-0 in regular season power point matches, then beat Phoenix Washington to begin the state tournament before the Padres fell to Tucson Catalina Foothills. For years of what Chavez referred to as “nothingness,” Marcos found the power of a quality GK in Victor Sanchez, plus Naveed Khosraviani, David Ieng, Jose Segura and its bench. More imporntantly, it found a passionate, committed group with which to build a brighter future in a once-potent program.
Mtn. View/Skyline melee: The stories weren’t all feel-good this season. Skyline and Mountain View played the first of two consecutive PP matches in late January, where play became increasingly tense and hostile toward officiating, parents and players. With Mountain View leading 3-1, the match was eventually called by the officials with approximately 15 minutes left because red cards prohibited Skyline from fielding enough players. That’s when a melee broke out between the teams and led to 18 red cards issued to Skyline and six to Mountain View. The total of 24 red cards were issued between the two schools, which are also automatic one-match suspensions, and Skyline forfeited the match and regular season finale.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.