Defense leads Xavier Prep to playoff shutout

Defense leads Xavier Prep to playoff shutout

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Defense leads Xavier Prep to playoff shutout

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In a match that saw Phoenix Xavier Prep shoot at goal 19 times, it was actually the team’s defense that stood out the most.

Junior defender Kellie Peay dominated when the ball was in the air and on the ground, showcasing her intelligence and skill all night.

Peay and her three fellow defenders led the way in No.4 Xavier Prep’s 2-0 shutout win over visiting No. 13 Mesa Red Mountain in a Division I tournament first-round game Tuesday night.

“Kellie’s done that since she’s been here, she’s such a force,” Xavier Prep coach Barb Chura said. “She’s great in the air. She reads everything. She’s one of the best, if not the best, defenders in the state in my opinion. The players who are playing around her, Amanda Lane is another top-notch defender. Cathy O’Connor is solid and due to injury we brought up (Kendall Ward) at left back who has just been steady. Between the four of them, they’ve just done a great job and have literally stuck together.”

Xavier Prep will host fifth-seeded Marana Mountain View on Saturday in the quarterfinals.

Xavier Prep will need its defense to play like it did on Tuesday when it cut off the attacking third of the field from Red Mountain, which got shots off just twice in the first half and four times in the second half.

Red Mountain, which was led in the midfield by Sydney Schroeder, took the first shot in the fourth minute, but it was Xavier Prep that peppered the goal all night. The deficit would have been greater if it wasn’t for a few great saves from Red Mountain goalkeeper Cassandra Balsley.

Both of Xavier Prep’s goals were set up by deflections. In the 27th minute, a ball deflected off a Red Mountain defender and went to Michaela Dooley who rocketed a shot into the net for a 1-0 lead.

The other goal came in the 61st minute. A combination that included Peay, Emily Vandenberg and Samantha O’Connor led to a hard O’Connor shot that ricocheted to Marina McMorrow who one-timed a shot from 6 yards out.

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