AIA365

Les Willsey
Staff Writer, AIA365.com

Division I girls state soccer tournament preview

The final week of regular-season play was an illustration of just how competitive Division I girls soccer has been for the 2013-2014 campaign.

Perry defeated Chaparral. Chaparral followed up and knocked off  Pinnacle. Pinnacle bounced back the next day to top Highland. Desert Vista beat top-10 Corona del Sol. Basha, hardly anyone's favorite to win the Section 2 title, topped Highland to win its first-ever section crown.

More of the same -- call it parity -- could await the next two weeks as the 16-team field battles for the 2014 state title. Here's an overview of the matchups, favorites, who's hot, who's not and other tidbits for a sure-to-be entertaining postseason. First-round play commences on Tuesday (Feb. 5) followed by quarterfinals Saturday Feb. 8, semis Thursday (Feb. 13) and final Saturday (Feb. 15):

FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS: No. 16 Mountain Pointe vs. No. 1 Pinnacle; No. 9 Gilbert vs. No. 8 Desert Mountain; No. 12 Millennium vs. No. 5 Chaparral; No 13 Desert Vista vs. No. 4 Xavier; No. 14 Sandra Day O'Connor vs. No. 3 Perry; No. 11 Highland vs. No. 6 Basha; No. 10 Corona del Sol  vs. No. 7 Hamilton; No. 15 Mesa Mtn. View vs. No. 2 Boulder Creek. OUTLOOK: With realignment for a new two-year scheduling block and schedule adjustments which allowed for a true sectional champion to emerge from each of the four sections this year, 10 teams that qualified for D-I state last year return -- defending champ Xavier, Pinnacle, Boulder Creek, Chaparral, Perry, Highland, Desert Vista, Millennium, Corona del Sol and Mesa Mountain View. The six newcomers are Mountain Pointe, Gilbert, Desert Mountain, Sandra Day O'Connor, Basha and Hamilton. FAVORITE(S): Pinnacle sports a senior-heavy class that's reached the semifinals each of the last two years. The bracket shakes out well for the Pioneers hosting Mountain Pointe, and if successful, the Gilbert-Desert Mountain winner in the quarters. None of those teams were playoff teams a year ago, so postseason experience is on Pinnacle's side. To get to the finals Pinnacle would have to beat the likes of Chaparral, Desert Vista or always playoff tough Xavier in its half of the bracket. Boulder Creek, which along with Pinnacle played two of the toughest schedules of any D-I school, trots out five or six high-caliber, college-bound players. With that level of talent the Jaguars are a strong bet, not quite a cinch, to reach the semis. DARK HORSE(S): Two of the hottest teams in the field are in the bottom half of the bracket -- Perry and Basha. Perry, which lost in last year's quarters to Pinnacle, is a seasoned, confident group. The Pumas last loss and only section defeat was to Hamilton in the season opener. And don't forget Xavier. The Gators have won three of the last five titles, played in four and have reached the semis the last  seven years. WHO'S HOT:  Perry has a nine-game winning streak. Boulder Creek and Basha have seven-game winning streaks WHO'S NOT: Highland, the D-I state champ in 2012 and semifinalist in 2013, has lost four games in a row (Perry, Hamilton, Gilbert and Pinnacle). ODDS AND ENDS: The first-round matchup featuring Desert Vista and Xavier is a rematch of the 2013 D-I title game, won by Xavier 1-0. Mountain Pointe and Mountain View have not fared well against other teams in the tournament field. Mountain Pointe has lost to five teams in the field and Mountain View six. Mountain Pointe's only win over a tournament qualifying team was vs. Mountain View. Mountain View does have wins over Basha and Corona.

(Teams and fans can now download the state soccer tournament programs for free. Photos and rosters of each team and stories previewing each soccer state tournament will be in the programs.
The programs will be available to view this week here: http://www.aia365.com/programs.)