Gaona: Recent run has Salpointe boys soccer in playoff hunt

2014-01-31T00:00:00Z Gaona: Recent run has Salpointe boys soccer in playoff huntDaniel Gaona Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

After the Salpointe Catholic boys soccer team lost to Desert View 1-0 earlier this month, longtime coach Wolfgang Weber had a scary thought.

The Lancers, having won the Division II state title in each of the last two years, were 2-3 in regular-season play and were 37th in the rankings with a tough seven-game stretch to close out the season.

“I looked at our schedule and said, ‘This is going to be very difficult, next to impossible,’ ” Weber said. “ ‘This might be the first time in 31 years that we don’t go to the playoffs.’ ”

Probably not after the recent run they’ve had.

Salpointe won six straight games before Thursday night’s 2-0 loss at home to Sabino on senior night. The Lancers, ranked 10th going into Thursday’s action, will find out their fate today. If it qualifies, Salpointe will be going for its third straight state title and seventh under Weber.

“It’d be a great honor to keep that streak going,” said junior Andrew Bianchi, the team’s leading scorer who netted two second-half goals in a 3-2 win at Rincon/University on Wednesday night.

“After going 2-3, people thought we weren’t going to make it but we really came together as a team, dealt through injuries, losing a player and we’re here right now.”

It’s been a season filled with adversity for the Lancers.

Before they even took the field, there were some big shoes to fill on a team graduated several key players including Arturo Vega and T.J. Hope who combined for 84 goals over the last two seasons.

Also gone was star sophomore Gavino Carranza, who had 18 goals and 12 assists for Salpointe last year and is now a member of Real Salt Lake Academy in Casa Grande.

Then, a month into the season, Weber’s wife, Nina, died the same day the Lancers suffered a 2-0 loss at Phoenix Brophy. And three days ago, Salpointe’s original senior night came to a sudden and scary end when referee Mike Chaisson suffered a heart arrhythmia, collapsed on the field and was taken by ambulance to University of Arizona Medical Center.

Add that Weber is starting four freshmen, and nothing has been normal about this season. Yet Salpointe has held it together down the stretch and Weber believes his team would be primed for a deep run in the playoffs.

“We’re on fire right now,” said senior captain Alex Flores, who moved from defender to right-mid halfway though the season. “We feel like we can beat anyone in the state.”

The team has essentially been in playoff mode since it beat Cienega 3-1 on Jan. 13 to bounce back from the loss to Desert View four days earlier. The Lancers went down to Nogales last week and knocked off the top-ranked Apaches 2-0 and went to Rincon early this week and overcame a 2-1 halftime deficit for its sixth straight win.

“There are plenty of teams out there who have sort of been on easy street but we’ve been battle tested,” Weber said. “To win at Douglas and in Nogales and then at Rincon, that’s no small feat for a young team.”

Sabino OL Mike picking college Monday

Sabino’s Andrew Mike, a 6-foot-7-inch 285-pound offensive tackle, will chose between Arkansas, Florida, Penn State and Vanderbilt on Monday, coach Jay Campos said. Arizona, a longtime suitor for Mike, is off his list. Mike is taking his final official visit this weekend to Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn.

CDO’s Jackson commits to Wyoming

While on an official visit to the University of Wyoming last weekend, Canyon del Oro defensive end John Jackson verbally committed to play for the Cowboys. The 6-foot-4-inch, 255-pound first-team All-Southern Arizona selection had three sacks and six tackles-for- loss and caught 10 passes for 218 yards and two scores last season. Jackson will be joining forces with 6-foot-3-inch, 285-pound Sierra Vista Buena defensive lineman Sidney Malauulu, who committed to play for Wyoming earlier this month.

Lancers finish 30th in national poll

Salpointe Catholic’s football team, which went 14-0 and won the Division II state title last November, was ranked 30th in the final MaxPreps national rankings. The Lancers were also honored Wednesday as part of the MaxPreps Football Tour of Champions presented by the Army National Guard.

Seeing as Salpointe hasn’t lost to a Southern Arizona team since 2008, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that coach Dennis Bene is having trouble coming up with two games for next season to make up for the pair of out-of-town games it had last fall. It’d sure be nice to see the Lancers go against teams like Cienega and Sahuaro next year or perhaps renew their rivalry with Canyon del Oro.

Contact high school sports coordinator Daniel Gaona at 807-7761 or dgaona@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @DanielGaona13

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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