Year That Was 2021

Year That Was: November’s Top Five Developments in Southern Arizona



Pima men’s soccer celebrate a national title (Pima photo)

The 2021 Pima Aztecs men’s soccer team earned a national championship after winning an overtime thriller Nov. 20 at Wichita, Kan., against the CCBC Essex (Md.) Knights on penalty kicks by a score of 3-2. It was tied, 3-3 in penalty kicks when Juan Suarez (Desert View grad) saved the biggest shot of the season for his team. Pima found itself with an opportunity to win the match with a final goal scored. Salpointe grad Francisco Manzo, who scored the first goal earlier in the match, was up to the challenge. CCBC Essex’s goal keeper guessed right on the direction the ball was going. Manzo put it just far enough out of reach to hit the back left corner of the net, allowing the Aztecs to win the 2021 national championship. They also achieved a title in 2018 under coach David Cosgrove. Manzo was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Suarez and Ulysses Torres (Sunnyside) were named to the all-tournament team.


Pima women’s soccer achieved its first national title appearance (Pima photo)

The No. 4 Pima Community College women’s soccer team fell just short in its quest for the program’s first NJCAA Division II national championship on Nov. 20 in Wichita, Kan., losing to No. 1 Heartland (Ill.) Community College. The Aztecs (16-4-2) finished in a 2-2 draw in regulation and overtime but lost for 4-2 in penalty kicks. Pima missed its first two attempts while the Hawks converted on their first three. Sophomore Kortney Cahill (Cienega grad) and Seti Valencia (Sunnyside) made their shots. “I’m super proud of how the girls played. It was unfortunate to be up a goal and give that lead up because our defense has been really stellar this whole tournament,” Pima coach Kendra Veliz said. “I’m really proud of how the girls competed, it was the No. 1 seed (Heartland CC) and my assistant coach said we scored more goals on them than any other team. Two goals was a huge accomplishment. Both ends I’m really proud with how the team played.”


Salpointe head coach Wolfgang Weber has reached 700 career wins (Andy Morales/

Wolfgang Weber believes his first victory as a head coach came some 40 years ago at Amphitheater. The wins kept coming and the Hall of Fame coach picked up his first state championship in 1985 and that was followed by another in 1986. He was the first coach in Arizona to win back-to-back state championships. Actually, he was the first to win two titles. In all, Weber earned eight state titles with Salpointe with his latest coming last season. The 36 years between his first and latest championship is remarkable in itself but he walked off the pitch some eight months ago with 699 career wins. His beloved wife Nina passed away in 2013 and was able to lift up another trophy with another bunch of teenage boys. Still, how can a legend retire with 699 wins? 700 is a nice number and Weber added that to his ever-growing legend Nov. 30 against Sahuaro. “If Nina was still alive, I might have stayed home and did some traveling with her and that sort of thing,” Weber said. “They put me in the Hall of Fame here at Salpointe and then they put a book together with letters from 50 or 60 kids talking about the influence I had on them. In my mind, that’s really the main reason. A lot of my former players became All-Americans. This makes you proud, but then you look at other people like Brenden Griffin, a Superior Court judge. He asked me to speak at his ceremony when he was sworn in as the judge and I made jokes about how he hated to be on the bench, but now he loves the bench. That’s what really what drives you, helping people to move on and do what they want to do.”


Arizona first-year coach Jedd Fisch celebrates the Wildcats’ lone win all season (Arizona Athletics photo)

It was not a win over top-ranked Washington, a Pac-12 South championship victory over ASU or a last-second field goal toppling Oklahoma. It was a defensive struggle for Arizona against a California team without 24 players and five coaches because of COVID-19 protocol. That did not matter one bit as far as the Wildcats and Jedd Fisch were concerned. The. Streak. Was. Over. “I’m happy to get that monkey off our back,” Fisch told the Pac-12 Networks crew at Arizona Stadum. Michael Wiley’s 10-yard touchdown run with 2:17 remaining was the difference in Arizona ending its 20-game losing streak with a 10-3 win Nov. 6. “The feeling is hard to describe,” Fisch said of the locker room scene after the game. “First of all, there is so much love in that locker room. They were so happy for each other. As much as we talk about one game, each game is a championship opportunity. They were so happy for each other. They sung ‘Bear Down’ as loud as possible. They deserve every bit of it.” Arizona, which had the longest losing streak in the nation, won its sixth straight against California, a nemesis from the past that kept the Wildcats from a couple of potential Rose Bowl trips in the 1990s.


Todd Holthaus achieved win No. 300 in his 14th season at Pima (Pima graphic)

Todd Holthaus earned his 300th career coaching victory in his 14th season at Pima with the Aztecs’ 71-51 win at Phoenix College on Nov. 23. Holthaus improved to 300-138 in his career at Pima with the win. Holthaus had a reunion with Pima women’s basketball alumni Tia MorrisonDeana BledsoeGabby BanalesTaylor BlueFelicia Foster and Shalise Fernander after the game. “The most striking thing (about 300 wins) is that it goes so fast. When I see those kids at games, they’ve got professional careers,” Holthaus said. “I love watching young people succeed. Seeing them at the game, it means I meant something to them and they came to see the team play. That’s kinda cool.” His coaching background includes being an assistant coach under Joan Bonvicini at Arizona (2005-2007) and as the Flowing Wells girls coach (1998-2005; 160-64 record).

NEXT: A look at the top five developments of December 2021 after the month concludes.

CLICK ON THIS LINK to access a complete rundown of the top developments of November 2021 in Southern Arizona

CLICK HERE to access the Year That Was 2021 series

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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