By: Ralph Amsden
Sixteen years after Chandler boys soccer made their lone appearance in the state final, they finally returned to take home the trophy, defeating O’Connor 3-2.
“These guys are unbelievable,” head coach Sasha Hunter said after the game. “Some of these guys I’ve had since they were 8th graders at Willis (Jr High), and that longevity and the fact that they believe made all the difference.”
Chandler opened up a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute when a long throw-in glanced off the fingertips of O’Connor keeper Ian Burton and left Frank Stein with the ball in front of a wide open goal. Chandler continued to pressure O’Connor for the first 20 minutes of the match until, but that’s when Eagles midfielder Musa Morris began to flash some of the skills that helped O’Connor upset Hamilton in the previous semifinals.
Despite relentless defense from the Wolves Andrew Clayton, among others, Morris was able to shake loose for a goal, tying the game with 16:04 to go in the first half. The Wolves defense wanted to argue that the ball hadn’t crossed the line before Chandler’s Cesar Castro hauled it in, but coach Hunter convinced his defense to refrain from arguing and refocus. “Patience has been key this year,” said Hunter. “Gilbert knew what to do to pressure us and make us lose focus, and ever since (that loss), we’ve know that the key to success focus on doing what we need to do, and not worrying about anything else.”
Hunter’s calm demeanor seemed to be contagious on the tense championship stage, as the Wolves were able to regroup and head into halftime tied 1-1. O’Connor however, seemed to be letting their emotions get the best of them, as Collin Jeambey drew a yellow card just after halftime, and Musa Morris had to check out due to being carded for tripping Chandler captain Don Tchilao as he was setting up for a shot. With Morris on the sideline, Tchilao missed his free kick, but managed to serve the ball up perfectly to Carter Rumsey on their next possession. Rumsey fielded the ball on the left corner of the box, and put the ball in the back of the net to give Chandler a 2-1 lead with 30:14 to go in the game. “Weak side was on all day, luckily Don found me and I was able to stay composed,” said Rumsey.
That feeling you get when you’re the champion pic.twitter.com/qKHrHrqiEi
— CTownRivals.com (@ctownrivals) February 15, 2015
Freshman Daniel Corona added an insurance goal for Chandler with 11 minutes to go, and that’s when Rumsey said he knew Chandler was going to be the state champions. “I really felt the momentum shift and I knew it was ours. Unfortunately we let another goal go through, but it didn’t matter.”
George Ekdahl scored on a header to keep O’Connor in the game, and Jackson Jellah nearly tied it up when he had a shot roll wide left with 6:23 to go, but the Wolves were able to shut the Eagles down and score their first ever state championship in boys soccer- just months after winning their first ever AIA sanctioned football championship. After the game, athletic director Jim Culver lauded the Wolves senior leadership and called the championship “Well deserved.”
Coach Hunter also made mention of his appreciation of the 14 seniors the Wolves have on this year’s team, saying “It’ll be hard to reload and replace these guys, but we’ll do what it takes.”
One of the seniors is Carter Rumsey, who said playing with the other 2015 graduates was “a privilege, especially because they aren’t just my teammates, they’re guys I look up to.”
The 2015 Chandler Wolves state championship boys soccer team finished the season 17-1-3, with playoff victories over Ironwood, Goldwater, Brophy and O’Connor, and a Maxpreps ranking of #13 in the nation.