The soccer regular season ended Tuesday night and the Mesa contingent has thinned out quickly.
Only three area teams will have the season extended to the play-in portion of the season while trying to get into the final 16 teams.
The Mesa boys squad (10-5-3 overall, 8-3-1 rankings) finished 16th in the final 6A Conference rankings and will host Tucson (10-4-5, 4-4-4) on Thursday at 6 p.m.
The Jackrabbits made the state quarterfinals last year but were a senior-laden team so expectations this year were a little less than usual entering the year.
“There was a lot of pressure on these boys to perform well due to our past success and not wanting to have to start over,” Mesa coach TJ Hagen said. “At the beginning of the season we had some lineup concerns to work out, but we have figured things out and have a solid lineup throughout. We have good scoring from our three senior forwards Moises Durazo, Jesus Valenzuela, and Danny Lopez and our defense has allowed under one goal a game the last six games.”
Next up is the Badgers with high hopes for considering the way the Jackrabbits are playing.
“Our match against Tucson will be tough, but we welcome the chance to represent the Mesa schools and do well,” Hagen said. “Everybody has a legit chance to win, it all matters for what team gets hot at the right time. If Brophy and Chandler can tie 1-1 and we can tie Chandler 2-2, why can’t we be good enough to compete with the best in the state?
“We just have to find our best game starting now.”
The Red Mountain girls (8-8-2, 6-5-1) won the East Valley Region title but Mountain View (10-6-2, 9-3) got the higher seed heading into the play-in round.
The Toros picked up the final home game as the No. 16 squad and will host Cibola (11-5, 8-4) on Thursday, while No. 18 Red Mountain goes on the road to No. 15 Gilbert (10-10, 7-5).
“We’ve played better down the stretch,” Red Mountain coach Vincent Gallegos said after beating Mesa. “We need to continue to communicate and play at a higher level the rest of the way.”
The winners advance to the final 16 with brackets being announced on Friday and the action starting Tuesday.
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.