Safford girls host No. 7 Gilbert Classical on Saturday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Rhylie Klajda (29) watches as Coolidge defenders are unable to stop her slow roller from entering the goal area. The Safford freshman scored a pair of first half goals as the Bulldogs eliminated Coolidge 5-1 on Feb. 8. Safford hosts No. 7 Gilbert Classical as No. 2 for a quarterfinal match on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 2 p.m.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

SAFFORD – The No. 2 ranked E.J. Romero-coached Safford girls soccer team welcomes No. 7 Gilbert Classical for a 2 p.m. start on Saturday, Feb. 11. It will be the second straight post-season match played on Herman BB Andrews Track and Field.

Safford (13-0 seeding, 16.5018 rating) advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2023 state tourney, topping the No. 15 Coolidge Bears 5-1 and Gilbert Classical (12-1-1, 9.2184) edged the No. 10 Scottsdale Prep Spartans 2-1 in overtime, both on Feb. 8. The teams are two of eight teams still in the hunt for a state title.

Gilbert Classical Knights

The 12-1-1 Knights outscored regular-season opponents 65-11, with wins of 5-0 over Scottsdale Rancho Solano Prep (Nov. 29), 9-0 over Fountain Hills (Dec. 6), 3-0 over Odyssey Institute (Dec. 7), 11-0 over Globe (Dec. 8), 3-0 over Phoenix Horizon Honors (Dec. 14), 5-0 over Avondale Saint John Paul II Catholic (Dec. 12), 5-2 over Mesa Arete Prep (Jan. 9), 3-2 in overtime over Horizon Honors (Jan. 11), 2-0 over Tempe Prep (Jan. 19), 2-1 over Chandler Valley Christian (Jan. 23), 7-0 over Scottsdale Cicero Prep (Jan. 27), and 6-1 over Crimson (Jan. 31).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Trinity Dominguez (28) draws Coolidge’s goalkeeper junior Marina Ramirez out, taking a shot that was the width of the ball wide of the goal late in the second half. The Safford freshman scored twice in the first half of a 5-1 Safford victory over Coolidge in the opening round.

The lone loss was 2-3 to Veritas Prep (Jan. 25) and the lone tie was 2-2 in overtime with Chandler Prep (Jan. 5).

Gilbert Classical lists an 18-member roster of one senior, four juniors, six sophomores, and seven freshmen. The team includes seniors Samantha Haug; juniors Theresa Bloxham, Payton Kloepping, Chiara Petriantonio, and Heidi Ulrickson; sophomores Makenzie Adcock, Zoey Emmert, Kiara Johnson, Tahani Kozerski, Gocke Ozturk, and Ashleigh Voiles; and freshmen Esha Bhatia, Leilani Dobbs, Lilian Kim, Aubrey Kloepping, Alexandria Medina, Shiloh Ulrickson, and Olivia Usrey

Safford Bulldogs

The 13-1 Bulldogs outscored regular-season opponents 78-6, with wins of 8-0 over Tanque Verde (Dec. 6), 6-1 over Coolidge (Dec. 13), 8-0 over Empire (Jan. 3), 8-0 over Tucson Mica Mountain (Jan. 5), 4-0 over Tucson Pueblo (Jan. 11), 7-0 over Florence (Jan. 19), 3-1 over Pusch Ridge (Jan. 20), 9-1 over Tucson Catalina (Jan. 21), 8-0 over Tucson Palo Verde Magnet (Jan. 23), 1-0 over Thatcher (Jan. 24), 8-0 over Tucson Andrada Polytechnic (Jan. 25), 1-0 over Tucson Sabino (Jan. 27), and 7-1 over Empire (Jan. 31).

A 2-2 tie resulted with Gilbert Christian during the Ben Franklin Winter Classic on Dec. 10.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Sophia Romero (5) reaches the ball ahead of Coolidge junior Allissa Hernandez (11).

Safford has six seniors, five juniors, six sophomores, and nine freshmen on its roster. The team includes seniors Elysia Barringer, Savanna Clonts, Karyme Grijalva, Jaylen Jurado, Olivia Madrid, and Sophia Romero; juniors Emilee Brown, Samantha Foote, Aminee Johnson, Lydia Marin, Daisha Price, Laethan Nelson, Brigham Nielson, Gavin Rodgers, Ben Schwallier, and Jake Scott; sophomores Breanna Arbizo, Giselle Garrabo, Isabella Guiterrez, Ellie Marin, Emma Motes, and Sophia Tellez; and freshmen Trinity Dominguez, Hailey Foote, Jerzi Hawkins, Rhylie Klajda, Tashoney Kniffin, Reyka Lester, Luz Mendoza, Chloie Peters, and Bianca Quintero.

Safford – 5, Coolidge – 1

“We were able to do what we wanted,” the fifth-year Safford head coach said. The Bulldogs followed the game plan and executed it as best they could, scoring three goals in the first half and two in the second. Coolidge was limited to a lone second-half goal, scored in the final five minutes.

The Bulldogs lit up their side of the scoreboard midway into the first half, on sophomore Breanna Arbizo’s goal. Freshman Rhylie Klajda added two more goals, in the 33rd minute and in the 40th minute, to take a 3-0 advantage into the halftime break.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Breanna Arbizo (3) dribbles through a pair of Coolidge defenders en route to the goal The Safford sophomore scored the initial goal of the match.

Class of 2026 teammates Trinity Dominguez added Safford’s fourth goal in the 50th minute and Chloe Peters the fifth in the 76th minute.

Coolidge junior Jubania Guerrero provided the Bears’ lone goal in the 61st minute.

3A State Tourney

State tourney participants numbered four from the Central Region; three from the East Region; two apiece from the Metro, South, and Southeast Regions; one each from the Northwest and Southwest Regions; and one independent.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Junior Samantha Foote (12) controls the ball before a Coolidge defender arrives.

The other state quarterfinalists are top-ranked Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin (12-0, 20.0153) hosting No. 8 Phoenix Country Day School (10-2, 8.5989) and No. 4 Glendale Prep (11-0, 13.9439) hosting No. 5 Phoenix Veritas Prep (9-2, 12.0946), both at 2 p.m.; and No. 3 Gilbert Christian (11-1, 14.9804) hosting No. 6 Tucson Sabino (9-3, 10.6058) at noon on Feb. 11.

Upper bracket advancers Benjamin Franklin, Phoenix Country Day, Veritas Prep, and Glendale Prep eliminated 8-0 over No. 16 Scottsdale Christian (4-6, 0.2051), 3-1 over No. 9 Phoenix Northwest Christian (9-3, 7.8188), 2-0 over No. 12 Queen Creek Crimson (9-1, 6.6442), 1-0 over No. 13 Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian (8-4, 4.8941), respectively.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford fifth-year head girls soccer coach EJ Romero goes over strategy during halftime.

Other lower bracket quarterfinalists, Gilbert Christian, Sabino, and Gilbert Classical ousted No. 14 Buckeye Odyssey Institute (9-4, 1.5498) 4-0, No. 11 Thatcher (7-3, 6.8952) 2-1, and No. 10 Scottsdale Prep (11-2, 7.7218) 2-1 in overtime, respectively.

The ensuing rounds will be played at Mesa Westwood, 945 West Rio Salado Parkway, the semifinals on Feb. 15, and the championship on Feb. 18.

3A State Play-in Round

Play-in round pairings had two upper seeds being upset and six lower seeds eliminated. The upsets were No. 20 Scottsdale Christian 9-3 over No. 13 Waddell American Leadership – West Foothills (8-1 seeding, 5.6565 rating) and No. 22 Chandler Prep 3-0 over No. 11 Thatcher (7-3, 6.8952).

 Lower seeds eliminated were No. 24 Wickenburg (6-3, minus 0.4686) 5-0 by No. 9 Northwest Christian, No. 23 Yuma Catholic (9-4, minus 0.4090) 6-1 by No. 10 Scottsdale Prep, No. 21 Rancho Solano Prep (5-4-1, minus 0.1268) 3-0 by No. 12 Crimson, No. 19 Tucson Empire (7-5, 0.2485) 3-0 by No. 14 Pusch Ridge, No. 18 Valley Christian (5-5-1, 0.5117) 3-2 in penalty kicks by No. 15 Odyssey Institute, and No. 17 Horizon Honors (5-7-1, 0.5553) 3-2 by No. 16 Coolidge.

3A Southeast Region Final Standings

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Coolidge junior Jubania Guerrero (17) wears the agony of defeat expression as she shakes hands with Safford opponents following the match.

The final region member standings were Safford (13-0-1 overall, 13-0 seeding, 4-0 region), Thatcher (11-6, 7-3, 3-1), Empire (10-6, 7-5, 2-2), Palo Verde Magnet (6-5-1, 6-5-1, 1-3), Andrada Polytechnic (0-11, 0-11, 0-5).

Region match results were: Safford (4-0) 8-0 over Palo Verde Magnet (Jan. 23), 1-0 over Thatcher (Jan. 24), 8-0 over Andrada Polytechnic (Jan. 25), and 7-1 over Empire (Jan. 31); Thatcher (3-1) 5-0 over Palo Verde Magnet (Jan. 11), 6-1 over Empire (Jan. 19), and 14-0 over Andrada Polytechnic (Jan. 31); Empire (2-2) 9-1 over Andrada Polytechnic (Jan. 23) and 2-0 over Palo Verde Magnet (Jan. 25), and Palo Verde Magnet (1-3) 6-0 over Andrada Polytechnic (Jan. 9);

The state rankings for Southeast Region members were: No. 2 of 49 for Safford (13-0 seeding, 16.5018 rating), No. 11 for Thatcher (7-3, 6.8952), No. 19 for Empire (7-5, 0.2485), No. 26 for Palo Verde Magnet (6-5-1, minus 3.6122), and No. 47 for Andrada Polytechnic (0-11, minus 18.1585).