Wildcats seek inaugural 2023 soccer season win against Globe on Thursday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Matteo Ciriello (00) kicks the ball out of the goal area. The senior goalkeeper is one of 11 returning varsity one-year letter winners. Morenci hosts Globe on Thursday, Jan. 5.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – Seven matches into the 2023 soccer season, Morenci has yet to record a win. It took nine matches last season before the Wildcats posted their initial win, 4-2 over Tombstone in Lawson Stadium on Jan. 14. In so doing, the Wildcats recorded the first home win, the first come-from-behind win, the first 2-point win, the first win with two players contributing scoring, the first match with one player scoring three goals, the first win under MHS head coach Maurizio Ciriello, and snapped the first 8-match loss streak.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Tombstone sophomore Jayden May wraps around a goal post during a shop attempt.

During three 2023 seeding matches, the Wildcats have been outscored 6-4. Morenci left Globe with a 2-2 overtime tie (Nov. 30), fell 0-1 to Tombstone (Dec. 2), and fell 2-3 in overtime to Tucson San Miguel Catholic (Dec. 8).

The Wildcats were outscored 17-0 on the field in three matches played during the three-day Mesa-held Brohdie Larson Classic. Morenci’s goal had been to win some matches at the meet. Instead, East Region Queen Creek San Tan Foothills prevailed 7-0 (Dec. 28), East Region Florence won 5-0 (Dec. 29), and Southwest Region Tonopah Valley won 5-0 (Dec. 29). The match with Northwest Region Mohave Valley River Valley was forfeited (Dec. 30).

The 2023 season’s goal is to qualify for the post-season, as a region member instead of an independent. Six of the remaining eight matches are in Southeast Region play, three in Lawson stadium, and three on the road. The home matches are with Safford (Jan. 20), Thatcher (Jan. Jan. 23), and Tucson Palo Verde Magnet (Jan. 31). The road matches are at Tucson Empire (Jan. 9), at Tombstone (Jan. 11), and at Tucson Andrada Polytechnical (Jan. 17). The home matches with Globe (Jan. 5) and with Coolidge (Jan. 25) are non-region pairings.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Anthony Ballesteros (6) goes after the ball against Tombstone junior Adrian Torres (18). The Morenci junior was the second-leading scorer for the Wildcats last season.

To date, the region members’ seeding records are Thatcher (3-0), Tombstone (2-0 overall, 0-0 region), Empire (2-1), Safford (2-2), Morenci (0-2-1), Palo Verde Magnet (0-3-1), and Andrada Polytechnical (0-3).

Morenci returned 11 of 13 letter winners, including five of the six scoring 24 of 30 goals. Back are juniors, midfielder/striker Keaton Jasso and forward/striker Anthony Ballesteros who contributed 11 and 10 goals, respectively, and senior midfielder/striker Brady Hooper, senior forward Tyler Lewis, and senior striker/forward Quinton Wiltbank one apiece. Class of 2022 midfielder Oscar Barrio scored the other six goals. The other graduated member was Lydia McCargish.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci reserves observe a home match from the bench.

Seniors Josh Biggs, Matteo Ciriello, and Aaron Merz; and freshmen Nolyn Adams, Bryant Figueroa, and Jossue Vaca Jr. were the other 2022 letter winners.

The 8-inch varsity letters and pins were awarded for playing in at least half the matches, with half of the time per match being played. The criteria amounted to being on the field 40 minutes per 80-minute match, and in 7 ½ of the 13 matches held during the historic season.

Also returning with some experience are Tristan Burke, Kathy Lara, and Clinton Sipes Jr.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Jossue Vaca Jr. (39) uses some footwork to control the ball in order to get past Tombstone sophomore Joel Kotchikian (11).

Newcomers include senior Andrew Castillo; junior Gabe Clancy and Andrea Dorame; sophomore Jose Armado Torres; and freshmen Mia Avila, Max Clancy, Leighton Colvin, Roselyn Dorrell, Emily Lewis, Sammy Kitcheyan, Summer Luster, Johnny Madrid, and Jose Torres.

The 2022 Wildcats ended 3-10 overall, 3-6 seeding, and ranked No. 49 (minus 14.7959 rating) of 54 3A teams under first-year head coach Maurizio Ciriello. The varsity season was the culmination of several club-type seasons. Morenci was outscored 30-73 as six Wildcats provided the team scoring.

The initial 27-member varsity roster had three seniors, 11 juniors, two sophomores, and 11 freshmen. Following the voluntary defection of three freshmen, 24 members finished out the season.

2022 3A State Soccer Tourney

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Jose Armando Lopez (11) dribbles the ball past Tombstone freshman Aayiliyah Gomez (3). The Morenci sophomore is one of 13 newcomers on the team.

The 3A Class has 55 teams, up from 54 last year, and only the top 24 teams were included in the 2022 post-season, with a 16-team play-in round of No. 9 through No. 24, followed by the surviving eight teams facing the top eight.

Eleven teams comprise the Southwest Region; eight in the Central, East, and Metro Regions; seven in the Southeast and Northwest Regions; and six in the South Region.

Last year, third-ranked Phoenix Country Day (10-0-1, 15.1821, 7-0 Central Region for 1st) doubled up on Gilbert North American Leadership (13-0 seeding, 19.5994 rating, 9-0 Metro East Region for 1st) 6-3 for the title.

Phoenix Country Day eliminated No. 2 Thatcher (11-0, 19.1711, 7-0 East Region for 1st) 4-1 during the semifinals on Feb. 15, No. 11 Phoenix Basis (7-3-1, 7.0153, 6-1 Central Region for 2nd) 8-0 during the quarterfinals, and No. 14 Yuma Catholic (6-4-2, 3.3301, 5-2-1 Southwest Region for 4th) was 9-1 during round one.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Keaton Jasso (16) looks to make a pass up field. The Morenci junior led the team in scoring last season.

Gilbert North American Leadership ousted No. 4 Phoenix Northwest Christian (10-1, 13.5787, 6-0 Northwest Region for 1st) 4-3 in the semifinals, No. 8 Anthem Prep (9-1-1, 9.0803, 5-1 Northwest Region for 2nd) 2-1 in the quarterfinals, and No. 16 Queen Creek San Tan Foothills (5-5-1, minus 0.1397, 3-3-1 East Region for 5th) 3-0 in round one.

In the other quarterfinals, it was No. 4 Phoenix Northwest Christian 2-0 over No. 12 Phoenix Veritas Prep (8-4, 6.4412, 5-2 Central Region for 3rd) and No. 2 Thatcher 3-0 over No. 7 Chandler Arizona College Prep (8-2-1, 9.8827, 5-2-1 Metro East Region for 4th).

The other round one upper bracket winners were No. 8 Anthem Prep, 3-1 in overtime over No. 9 Buckeye Odyssey Institute (8-2-2, 8.5313, 7-0-2 Southwest Region for 1st); No. 12 Phoenix Veritas Prep, 2-1 in overtime over No. 5 Gilbert Christian (10-2-1, 13.3438, 7-1-1 Metro East Region for 2nd); and No. 4 Phoenix Northwest Christian, advancing with a 4-3 PK following a 1-1 tie over No. 13 Glendale Trivium Prep (7-3-1, 4.4235, 5-2-1 Southwest Region for 3rd).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Jose Torres (12) licks the ball to a teammate against Tombstone.

The other lower bracket advancers were No. 11 Phoenix Basis, 3-2 in overtime over No. 6 Coolidge (11-1, 12.1176, 6-1 East Region for 2nd); No. 7 Chandler Arizona College Prep, 3-0 over No. 10 Chandler Valley Christian (8-3-1, 8.3611, 6-2-1 Metro East Region for 3rd); and No. 2 Thatcher, 4-1 over No. 15 Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian (10-1, 3.1882, 7-1 South Region for 1st).

Advancing from the play-in round were No. 9 Buckeye Odyssey Institute, 1-0 over No. 24 Scottsdale Prep (5-7-1, minus 0.3239, 2-5 Central Region for 5th); No. 11 Chandler Valley Christian, 8-2 over No. 22 Scottsdale Christian (5-6, 1.4465, 4-3 Central Region for 4th); No. 12 Phoenix Basis, 4-0 over No. 21 Gilbert Classical (7-5-2, 1.5210, 4-4-1 Metro East Region for 5th); No. 13 Phoenix Veritas Prep, 1-0 over No. 20 American Leadership – Ironwood (5-5-1, 2.8849, 4-2-1 East Region for 3rd), No. 14 Glendale Trivium Prep, 3-2 over No. 19 Gilbert Arête Prep (7-6-1, 3.1363, 4-5 Metro East Region for 6th); No. 17 Yuma Catholic, 3-0 over No. 16 Mesa Benjamin Franklin (6-5-1, 3.5277, 4-3 East Region for 4th); No. 18 Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian, 2-0 over No. 15 Phoenix Bourgade Catholic (7-3-1, 3.5596, 5-3 Southwest Region for 5th); and No. 23 Queen Creek San Tan Foothills, 1-0 over No. 10 Phoenix NFL Yet (8-1-3, 8.4429, 6-0-2 Southwest Region for 2nd).