The azcentral.com Sports Awards, presented by Arby’s, will honor an Athlete of the Year in every sport at the event on April 30.
At the end of each season, azcentral sports will announce three finalists for each Athlete of the Year award. The finalists are listed alphabetically.
All three will be invited to the awards show where the winner will be announced live.
A Coach of the Year in every sport also will be selected at the end of each season. From the winter sports honors, a finalist for the overall Coach of the Year award will be announced and invited to the event.
Tickets are on sale for the event at sportsawards.azcentral.com.
Big Schools Girls Soccer Athlete of the Year finalists
School: Chandler Hamilton
Don’t be misled by Brianna Atterbury’s modest statistics this season: 17 goals and 11 assists in 19 games. Hamilton coach Nathan Fairchild said Atterbury’s numbers would have jumped had she not been lifted during lopsided games.
There’s also this: This past summer Atterbury was the only Arizona player invited to participate in the Under-17 Women’s National Team Camp as they prepared for the U17 World Cup.
“Most of the state of Arizona and the country for that matter know of Brianna’s greatness on the soccer field,” Fairchild said. “It is easy to recognize as one of my college-coaching colleagues communicated to me after I had convinced him to go watch a scrimmage game away from the college showcase he came to Arizona to watch in order to watch Brianna play. He quickly called me and told me I was wasting his time. I said, ‘You have got to be kidding me. She is good. Just watch her a little longer.’ His response was priceless. ‘I know she is good. I have been watching for 10 minutes.’ ”
Atterbury was a freshman at the time.
Fairchild said Atterbury’s competitiveness – “she wants to win at everything,” stands out. Atterbury comes by it naturally.
“Growing up, my parents and family were into board games and sports and were super competitive,” she said. “Whether in Monopoly or video games, I have always had an extreme desire to win and that has really played a huge role in my personality.”
Just one other thing about Atterbury, who has verbally committed to play soccer at Arizona State. She is known to everybody as “Sammi,” a nickname she got when she was 6 years old and playing on her first team.
“She did not have the heart to tell them her name was really Brianna,” Fairchild said. “So it stuck.”
School: Gilbert Perry
There’s no question Amanda Dahl is one of the best players in the state. She had 36 goals and 23 assists for Perry this past season and was named the Chandler Unified School District’s Offensive Player of the Year.
But what distinguishes Dahl, beyond her scoring ability, is that she doesn’t think she’s anything special.
“The first time I met her, I noticed that she had a way about her approach to life and the game of soccer that was different than the others she was playing with,” Perry coach John Roberts said. “Amanda always plays with a smile, always plays as hard as she can and always wants to make sure that those around her receive all the recognition and praise. I have never seen her look for the recognition or praise that so many players today expect.”
Perhaps that’s because Dahl’s perspective is touched by her volunteer work alongside kids with disabilities. Or, it’s because she doesn’t view soccer as some sort of pedestal to stand on.
“I like having a second family and being close to them,” Dahl said. “It’s like an escape from school. I look forward to going to practice.”
Dahl will play collegiate soccer at Portland State University. Roberts has no doubt she’ll succeed there, as well.
“What amazes me most about Amanda is that she does not realize the impact she has on others and how great of a person and soccer player she is,” Roberts said. “She still sees herself on the same level as everyone else and continues to strive to be the best.”
School: Phoenix Arcadia
If Arcadia coach Adam Zweiback could draw up a prototype of a striker, it would look something like Teufel, who had 28 goals and eight assists in 19 games this year.
“Of all the talented players I have seen in Arizona the last decade, Kalena, without a doubt, has the most devastating combination of speed, touch, dribbling skills, soccer IQ, a rocket shot with both right and left foot, and a relentless desire to help her team win,” Zweiback said. “Kalena is the player opponents double team and even foul repeatedly throughout a game, and yet she invariably scores the winning goal or gives the crucial assist to a teammate.”
Teufel also has a knack of scoring important goals, no bigger example than the ball she rocketed into the back of the net late in Arcadia’s semifinal win over Scottsdale Notre Dame. The goal sent the game into overtime, Arcadia won and advanced to the state title game for the first time in 15 years.
“We were down 1-0 and running low on energy,” said Teufel, who will play at the University of San Francisco. “I saw an opportunity to score and capitalized on it. … From then on, the mood with our team had shifted, and we were so much more confident.”
There’s one other talent Teufel has that’s important: An ability to loosen up her teammates when they need a good laugh.
“Even doing hand springs and walking on her hands,” Zweiback said. “She has a drive for excellence, but she’s also supportive of players on both our varsity and junior varsity who have a much less impressive soccer pedigree.”
Big Schools Girls Soccer Coach of the Year
School: Phoenix Xavier Prep
Season recap: It’s the rare year that Phoenix Xavier Prep isn’t contending for the 6A Conference girls state soccer championship. Xavier has been one of the state’s premier programs for years, as evidenced by its titles in 2009, 2010 and 2013. But longtime coach Barbara Chura wasn’t sure if her team had another championship in it this year because it lost 12 players off last season’s squad. Xavier’s season was defined during a Christmas break tournament when Chura changed the lineup and the team, in her words “found ourselves.” After returning from the break, Xavier beat Chandler Hamilton 2-1 in overtime and Chura told her assistants “We’re going to be really, really good.” Her words were prophetic. Xavier eventually knocked off defending champ Phoenix Desert Vista 2-0 in the 6A Conference state championship game.
Coach Chura’s comments: “Having half the team brand new to the varsity can be difficult. But I think what made this year so special was the way the seniors led. Our leadership was as strong as it has ever been, and I truly believe all the off-the-field activities directly correlated with our team performance. I firmly believe that team chemistry is built off the field not on it, but eventually, you see what took place off the field over the season when the team ‘molds itself.’ Our off-the-field team chemistry translated directly on the field and it showed. That was, in my opinion, a reflection of our senior leadership.”
Small Schools Girls Soccer Athlete of the Year finalists
School: Tucson Salpointe Catholic
Want a reason Salpointe won the 4A Conference state championship this year? How about the fact that goalkeeper Madison Hargis didn’t give up a goal in all four playoff games. Not one. Salpointe won the four games by a combined score of 8-0.
“Her abilities led her to come up big in moments when her team needed her most this season and her willingness to leave everything she has on the field garnered the respect of all of her teammates and coaches,” Salpointe coach Becky Freeman said.
Hargis, who has yet to decide where she’ll play college soccer, became a goalkeeper only when the coach’s daughter on her youth team decided she didn’t want to play keeper anymore. Hargis put the gloves on, “catching and diving came naturally to me,” and that was that.
“Madison is one of the best high school goalkeepers you will watch,” Freeman said. “She has great hands and distribution, a great presence in the back and communicates effectively with her defense all the while gaining the respect of her teammates.”
Hargis is also one tough cookie. During a region game against Walden Grove, she injured her elbow on a corner kick and the team trainer told her she may have hyperextended the joint.
Hargis, with tears in her eyes, refused to come out.
“This game was of top importance, and she was not going to sit on the sidelines,” Freeman said.
It’s the sign of a good goalkeeper: She has her team’s back.
School: Tucson Palo Verde
If there were any questions as to how Palo Verde would handle the jump up to the 4A Conference this year, they were answered by Igulu, who scored 55 goals and added 12 assists to lead her team to a 17-4 record.
“I feel no player in the state could have done more for their team than Jackie Igulu did for Palo Verde,” coach Jim Mentz said. “She combined great speed and ball skills while constantly being double- or triple-teamed.
How important was Igulu to Palo Verde’s success? The team scored 111 goals. She had nearly half of them.
“My job is to score, and I believe in my skills,” Igulu said. “I want to reward the team’s effort of getting the ball up to me by finishing it off with a goal. I was and still am very confident in what I can do and what I can accomplish. Yes, the level was higher than what we normally have experienced but our intensity and heart is what pushed us through.”
Igulu chose to stay home and play soccer at Benedictine University in Mesa.
“I’ll be close to home, it’ll be more flexible for my family to support me and more opportunities for them to visit because my family is very important to me,” she said. “I couldn’t be where I am now without them.
“It was a long thought process before making my decision, and at the end, I just didn’t want to move far from home just yet.”
School: Fountain Hills
It sort of figured that Erika Yost would score two goals in her final high school soccer game, Fountain Hills’ 2-0 win over Goodyear Trivium Prep in the 3A Conference state championship game. After all, Yost has been doing that her entire high school career.
She leaves Fountain Hills with three state titles and a school-record 104 goals, with 54 this season. She scored a goal in 29 straight games and had 11 three-goal games. Other than that …
“Erika has the most natural soccer ability I have ever coached or watched over the years,” Fountain Hills coach Alison Mabery said. “Her speed, conditioning, ball skills and work ethic makes her stand out above all players on the field, even against the biggest schools and best players in the state. She is the biggest reason we have gone to the state championship game every year since her freshman year.”
The only time Fountain Hills didn’t win it all: When Yost was injured her sophomore season.
“It makes you realize that you need to enjoy every moment that you get playing and not look too far ahead because you never know what obstacles you may have to overcome,” Yost said … “Looking back, it’s been an incredible ride. I never imagined three state titles, but together, it was possible.”
Yost’s contributions extended far beyond her scoring ability. Her leadership, Mabery said, was invaluable.
“She engages with all her teammates and makes everyone feel welcome and a part of the team, even young freshman who have never played soccer before,” Mabery said. “She inspires our entire team to keep fighting.”
Yost will play at the University of Oklahoma.
Small Schools Girls Soccer Coach of the Year
School: Tucson Salpointe Catholic
Season recap: Tucson Salpointe Catholic didn’t have a single star player that was instrumental in its run to the 4A Conference girls soccer state championship. Rarely was there a set starting lineup. Players were stuck in positions they didn’t feel comfortable in. Those challenges made the title all the sweeter for Freeman. So did this: Salpointe began the season still hurting from last year’s state championship game loss to Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep. Freeman felt her team was feeling too much pressure and not playing with enough confidence. It wasn’t until a team meeting in January that Salpointe closed the book on its runner-up finish the year before and decided to look ahead to what was possible this season.
Coach Freeman’s comments: “We were always making changes, challenging new players and they all stepped up. In our meeting, we had a short team discussion to remind them why they play soccer. To reflect on the season so far and to take the remaining games we had left in the regular season one-by-one. Looking back, that meeting and touching base with the players was a turning point. Not in the sense that we could be state champions, but in a reminder of why we play the game, how special it is to play and represent your school, and to play with passion – leave everything you have on the field each time you practice and play a game. The state championship match … to see the five seniors on the field, at the end of the match run and hug their teammates is something I will never forget.”
Madison Hargis, Tucson Salpointe Catholic, 5-7, Jr.
Had six shutouts to close a 4A state championship season.
Chloe Christakos, Scottsdale Chaparral, 5-11, Sr.
Great defender who could come in and score and assist others for goals on 5A championship team.
Chanel Thomas, Scottsdale Desert Mountain, 5-3, Sr.
Rarely let anything get past her, locked it up with masterful footwork to keep goals from scoring.
Isabel Deustch, Phoenix Desert Vista, 5-6, Sr.
Great, tough leader who had six goals and seven assists for the Thunder.
Michaela Burke, Gilbert Christian, 5-11, Sr.
Had 36 goals and 22 assists for one of top small-school teams in the state.
Erika Yost, Fountain Hills, 5-7, Sr.
Team’s heart and soul had 54 goals and 20 assists for 3A champions and had 11 hat tricks on the season.
Brianna “Sammi” Atterbury, Chandler Hamilton, 5-5, Jr.
A repeat All-Arizona performer, she has 42 goals and 22 assists in her varsity career.
Kalena Teufel, Phoenix Arcadia, 5-6, Jr.
Clutch performer throughout the 5A state playoff run to the final, she finished with 28 goals and eight assists.
Jackie Igulu, Tucson Palo Verde, 5-6, Sr.
After scoring 62 goals last season, she had 55 goals and nine assists this season and was the Gila Region POY.
Quiqui Hita, Phoenix Xavier Prep, 5-7, Sr.
Had 12 goals, six assists and four game-winning goals, leading the Gators to 6A title.
Amanda Dahl, Gilbert Perry, Jr.
Despite being one of the more targeted players in the state, she managed 36 goals and 23 assists, scoring from anywhere.
Lexi Aguilar, Phoenix Thunderbird, F, So.; Naomi Aguilar, Goodyear Millennium, F, Jr.; Makayla Aman, Perry, GK, Jr.; Samantha Anger, Queen Creek Casteel, F, Fr.; Quinci Black, Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge, GK, Jr.; Rachel Brown, Eagar Round Valley, F, Sr.; Giselle Chinchilla, Chino Valley, GK, Sr.; Camie Edgington, Lakeside Blue Ridge, MF, Sr.; Kensey Ehmann, Xavier, GK, Jr.; Danisia Ellin, Yuma Catholic, GK, So.; Katielyn Farnsworth, Chino Valley, F, Sr.; Kyla Ferry, Xavier, F, So.; Lauren Foster, Chino Valley, MF, So.; Raquel Fuentes, Glendale Apollo, MF, Jr.; Amanda Green, Desert Vista, GK, Jr.; Tori Gutierrez, Trivium Prep, GK, So.; Lily Hanridge, Blue Ridge, GK, Jr.; Karolyn Hasler, Hamilton, GK, Sr.; Jody Hernandez, Phoenix Thunderbird, MF, Sr.; Nicole Hooks, Xavier, GK, Jr.; Morgan Hoefle, Mesa Desert Ridge, F, Sr.; Audree Incardone, Mesa Red Mountain, F, Sr.; Ari Jimenez, Peoria Centennial, MF, Jr.; Kate Lawrence, Scottsdale Christian, MF, Sr.; Jordan Lund, Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, F, So.; Katie Moore, Xavier, D, Sr.; Kylee Martin, Tucson Sahuaro, MF, Sr.; Marilyn McFeaters, Palo Verde, MF, So.; Tanna McLeod, Marana, GK, Sr.; Olivia Nguyen, Tempe Corona del Sol, F, Jr.; Jessica Olander, Desert Ridge, So.; Kiana Oriero, Thatcher, F, Jr.; Kiara Parker, Perry, MF, Sr.; Makayla Roe, Anthem Prep, F, So.; Paula Rosztoczy, Goodyear Trivium Prep, MF, So.; Kylie Ryan, Gilbert Higley, F, Sr.; Sophia Serna, Queen Creek, F, Fr.; Brooke Taffuri, Scottsdale Notre Dame, GK, Jr.; Katie Townsend, Prescott, F, Sr.; Allison Veloz, Surprise Willow Canyon, F, So.; Kacey Wellard, Yuma Gila Ridge, F, Sr.