Year That Was 2021

Year That Was: 2021 Team Champions in Southern Arizona

Sunnyside Wrestling

Sunnyside after it won its 34th state wrestling title (Andy Morales/

Sunnyside earned its 34th state championship in program history after scoring 198 points to 166.5 from Liberty in the Division 1 state competition. Anthony Leon coached the Blue Devils to a state title in 2013 at the Division I level but four straight years of finishing in second place followed. That kind of result would be a dream for lots of programs but the Blue Devils wrestle for the top and Leon brought them back there in 2018. That championship led to another one in 2019 and still another in 2020 at the D-II level and then the team was bumped back up to D-I for this season. Sunnyside distanced itself from Liberty after it was announced that Bravo-Young won the 133-pound national championship for Penn State that same day. “Today was a great day with Roman Bravo-Young winning the NCAA championship,” Leon said. “That really lifted our hopes. We love that guy and everybody on the team looks up to him. Quite frankly, everybody in Tucson looks up to that kid. When he won, I felt like it was pre-ordained (for his team to win the title).” Sunnyside’s state champs included James Armstrong (113 pounds), Sebastian Robles (160) and Rene Fragoso (182).

Salpointe boys soccer

Legendary coach Wolfgang Weber won his eighth state title at Salpointe (Andy Morales/

Led by solid defense, and a stellar performance from freshman midfielder Adrian Franks, Salpointe Catholic beat Walden Grove 5-1 on March 20 to capture the 4A state boys soccer championship. It is legendary coach Wolfgang Weber’s eighth state title and the 699th win of his 39-year coaching career. Sophomore forward Nico Valenzuela and junior defender Sergio Ruiz De Chavez each scored a goal, but it was Franks’ hat trick performance that stole the show.  “It feels good to get some recognition for the 39 years that I’ve been there, but I tell you this is real special, I’m really happy for them,” Weber said. “Let me also say that it’s not just me, but it’s my associate head coach Luis Gonzalez, he has been there the whole year carrying the large burden of the daily training.”

Catalina Foothills boys basketball

Catalina Foothills celebrates its first boys hoops state title (Javier Morales/

Eight years into the Doug D’Amore era at Catalina Foothills, the coach and his veteran team cut the net down as the school’s first state champion at last. Catalina Foothills, playing in its first title game, made the historical achievement in the school’s 28th year of existence with the 59-45 win over Peoria Centennial on March 20. “Sometimes it feels like forever and sometimes it feels like a flash,” D’Amore said. “There’s so many kids, so many parents, and so many administrators that helped us get to this point. I don’t have enough time to thank everyone who helped us get to the point we’re at now.” Will Menaugh, a preferred walk-on commit for Arizona, was beset by foul trouble against Centennial. Trace Comeau picked up the slack in the interior with 17 points and seven rebounds. Ben Pinckney also dominated inside against Centennial’s smaller frontcourt with 11 points and seven rebounds. Senior point guard captain Carson Peabody, son of Pima coach Brian Peabody, tallied eight points, nine rebounds and four assists, and Cody Blumenthal and Dylan Hadley each had nine points.

Salpointe girls soccer

Salpointe won its third state title under Kelly Pierce and its seventh in school history (Javier Morales/

Salpointe Catholic girls soccer who closed its 12-0-1 season with a 2-0 win in the 4A state title match March 20 over No. 1 seed Prescott, which suffered it first loss and finished 16-1. Salpointe alum Kelly Pierce, who won two state titles as a player in 1998 and 1999, has now coached the Lancers to three championships. The previous titles occurred with her first two teams in 2017-18 and 2018-19. The year before she returned to her alma mater, Becky Freeman coached the Lancers to the state title. The program has won seven state championships overall. “I think they are all unique and we had different strengths in each group,” Pierce said of the championship teams she has coached. “I really think the team chemistry with this group and how good they get along, especially having 26 girls on our roster, was tremendous.” Trinity Morales, a junior, and freshman Anjeli DesRosier each scored a goal for Salpointe and goalie Madison Smith helped keep Prescott scoreless.

Arizona women’s basketball

Cate Reese hugs Aari McDonald (Arizona Athletics photo)

Adia Barnes’ program qualifed for its first Final Four by winning the Mercado Region championship over Indiana 66-53 on March 29 at San Antonio. Arizona, seeded No. 3 in the NCAA Tournament, upset No. 1-seeded UConn 69-59 in the Final Four on April 2. The Wildcats came a jump shot away from claiming the national title on April 4 but Stanford prevailed 54-53. Aari McDonald was named Most Outstanding Player in the Mercado Region.

Arizona men’s golf

Arizona won its first Pac-12 title in 17 years (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona men’s golf won the Pac-12 championship on April 28 by four strokes with a final score of 41-under par. The team title was only half of Arizona’s championship sweep as senior Brad Reeves won the individual title at 16-under after a tap-in birdie putt on the second playoff hole to defeat Stanford’s Henry Shimp. Arizona winning the team title ranks No. 7 this month and Reeves’ individual title is No. 8. “We’ve been able to share a couple of moments of celebration already as a team, and now we are just grinning from ear to ear,” said head coach Jim Anderson, who was chosen the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. “It’s such a special feeling to see Brad work so hard over his career to reach this pinnacle and for him to become a champion is an accomplishment we are all so proud of. For our team, led by this amazing group of seniors, to win a Pac-12 Championship is something we will look back of as a paramount moment for our entire program and in all of our careers.” The Wildcats’ team championship was their first conference title since winning the 2004 Pac-10 Championships while Reeves became the first Wildcat to win the inidividual title since Creighton Honeck was the 2008 Pac-10 Champion. A historic performance in the first of the early two rounds on April 26 set the tone for the Wildcats. The Wildcats finished that day at 24-under par. Arizona’s 16-under par performance in round one was the lowest single round score at the conference championships in program history, breaking the previous record of 14-under par during the 1984 Pac-10 Championships.

Pima Community College men’s and women’s track & field

Pima men’s and women’s track and field (Pima photo)

The Pima men’s and women’s track and field teams claimed NJCAA Division II Region I titles on April 29 at Mesa Community College. The region titles mark the first for the men’s team since 1983, and the first for the women’s team since 1996.

Arizona baseball

Jay Johnson led Arizona to his first Pac-12 title as a coach (Arizona Athletics graphic)

No. 7 Arizona’s 6-5 win at Oregon State coupled with No. 6 Oregon’s 8-5 loss in 12 innings to No. 15 Stanford on May 23 meant the Wildcats have earned their fifth Pac-12 championship, the first since their College World Series title team of 2012. The championship is the first for Jay Johnson, who is in his sixth season with Arizona. The Wildcats were selected as the No. 5 national seed . The Wildcats finished the 2021 regular season with an overall record of 40-15 and a Pac-12 mark of 21-9. Arizona reached the 40-win mark in the regular season for the 13th time in program history with a walk-off victory over Dixie State, and concluded their second-winningest conference campaign the previous weekend with a 2-1 road series win over Oregon State. Arizona won the 2021 Pac-12 baseball championship outright, earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The selection sealed the Wildcats’ 40th NCAA Tournament appearance, and their third under Johnson. Arizona’s 40 postseason appearances are the sixth most in the nation. Arizona went on to the College World Series after winning the Tucson regional and super regional titles.

Salpointe softball

Amy Rocha congratulates Alyssa Aguilar after Aguilar hit the game-winning home run in the state title game (Andy Morales/

Salpointe became the seventh softball team in the state to win a championship unbeaten after the Lancers held on to defeat Vista Grande 5-4 May 17 at Hillenbrand Stadium on the Arizona campus. The victory gave the Lancers their fifth state championship as the program finished 24-0. Head coach Amy Rocha guided the program to three straight championships with a 2020 out of the equation due to COVID restrictions. Alyssa Aguilar was the winning pitcher and she it the game-winning home run.

Sabino softball

Sabino, the 3A state champs in softball (Andy Morales/

Just three days following Sabino’s momentous 15-inning victory over Empire in the 3A state semifinals, Riley Nielson led the Sabercats to a 4-1 victory over Payson in the championship game at Hillenbrand Stadium on May 17. The victory for No. 1-seeded Sabino (20-1) over No. 3 Payson (20-4) marks the fourth state championship in the history of the program, and the second consecutive title (last season was cancelled due to COVID-19) for the Sabercats. Nielson, a Class of 2022 standout who controlled the game from the circle and struck out 10 batters, got some help on offense in crucial moments from juniors Yesenia Romero and Ashley Stewart to shut the door on a Payson team that could never really sustain any momentum.

Sabino baseball

Sabino celebrates its 3A state title in baseball (NFHS screen shot)

Sabino earned is second consecutive state championship under coach Shane Folsom and the Sabercats won their third title overall with a 12-8 win over Buckeye Odyssey Institute on May 17 at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The Sabercats (16-5) withstood a late rally by Odyssey Institute, which scored eight runs in the sixth and seventh innings after trailing 12-0 and facing a run-rule loss in the bottom of the sixth. “We’re very resilient, and yeah, I got a little nervous there, but we built a nice lead,” Folsom said. “Give Odyssey Institute credit. They battled. I’m just proud of our kids. We had a game plan and we executed it.” Senior right-hander Tyler Welsh earned the victory pitching six innings and allowing eight hits with two strikeouts and four walks. He also was one of three Sabercat batters who had multiple hits, going 2 for 5. The others with more than one hit were Nathan Ortiz (3-for-4 with a run and RBI) and Jake Wiltshire at the leadoff spot (2 for 4 with a run and two RBIs).

Catalina Foothills boys and girls tennis

Catalina Foothills boys and girls tennis teams (Dana Scott/Arizona Republic)

Catalina Foothills’ dominance in tennis continued in May. The No. 3 Catalina Foothills girls defeated No. 6 CanyonView (5-0) to win the 16th championship in program history and the No. 7 Catalina Foothills boys defeated No. 5 Paradise Valley 5-0 to win the 15th title in program history on May 8.

Salpointe beach volleyball

Salpointe celebrates its first state beach volleyball championship (Brittany Bowyer/

Top-ranked Salpointe captured its first beach volleyball state title on May 13 when the Lancers defeated the No. 6 Valley Christian Trojans 4-1 at Casteel High School in Queen Creek. “I’m just blessed. Look what happens when we have a full year, we get to show what we have,” said sophomore Rylen Bourguet, who was part of state championship teams in volleyball, girls soccer and beach volleyball in the 2020-21 school year.

FC Tucson 19U and 17U girls soccer

FC Tucson 02/03 Girls Black 19U team photo
FC Tucson 04 Girls Black 17U team photo

The FC Tucson 19U and 17U girls soccer teams won a state title on May 2. The FC Tucson 02/03 19U Girls Black team defeated CCV Stars 02/03 with a final score of 3-1. The team is coached by David Cosgrove and the manager is Meg Riley. Cosgrove is also the Pima Community College men’s soccer coach. The FC Tucson 04 17U Girls Black team won its title game 1-0 over the Utah Royals AZ 04 DPL. The coach is Roberto Garcia and the manager is Adrienne Walker-Heller.

RSL-AZ Southern Arizona 13U and 15U girls soccer

RSL-AZ Southern Arizona 06 Girls 15U DesRosier team photo
RSL-AZ Southern Arizona 08 Girls 13U DesRosier team photo

The RSL-AZ Southern Arizona 13U and 15U girls soccer teams won a state title on May 2. The RSL-AZ Southern Arizona 06 Girls 15U DesRosier team defeated the FC Tucson SC 06 Girls Black team 3-0 in the championship. The RSL-AZ Southern Arizona 08 Girls 13U DesRosier team topped Arizona AZSC 08G Johnson 2-1 in its title match. Paul DesRosier is the coach and Lisa DesRosier is the manager for both teams.

St. David baseball

St. David 1A baseball champs (AZPreps365 photo)

St. David’s baseball team captured the 1A state baseball championship on May 16 with a 9-8 win over Ray at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The Tigers have now won 18 state championships in baseball.

Benson baseball

Benson celebrates its 2A championship (AZPreps365 photo)

Benson shocked defending champion Scottsdale Christian 6-3 in the 2A state baseball championship game on May 16 at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Arizona softball

Arizona celebrates its Fayetteville Super Regional title (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona completed the Fayetteville Super Regional sweep, defeating Arkansas 4-1 on May 29 to secure a spot in the Women’s College World Series for the 24th time in school history with the regional title. After taking down the host Razorbacks in Game 1, 10-4, the Cats finished off the sweep with a 4-1 win in Game 2 to pull off the rare road super regional sweep. The Wildcats moved onto the Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City for the second straight season and 24th overall, second most in NCAA history. It turned out to be the last time legendary coach Mike Candrea coached the Wildcats to the WCWS because he announced his retirement at the conclusion of the season.

Little League championships

San Xavier Little League celebrates its Juniors state championship (Photo courtesy Nogales International)

— San Xavier Little League on the southeast side of Tucson captured the District 12 title on July 2 with a victory over Sunnyside and it went on to claim the state championship July 29 with a 7-3 victory over Nogales. The state championship is the first in baseball for San Xavier since 2001 when the Majors team that included future Tucson High and Arizona player Chris Moon reached the semifinals of the West Regionals at San Bernardino, Calif. Moon sacrificed his life for this country in the war against terrorism at Afghanistan. Carlos Alvarez and George Acuña each went 2 for 4 for San Xavier. Acuña hit a double and triple and scored a run and Alvarez had two runs. Francisco Navarro also had a double and a run. San Xavier added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out RBI single hit by Damion Murrietta.

— Copper Hills captured the District 12 Little League Intermediate 50/70 championship on June 24 beating Cactus 2-0 in a best-of-three format.

— Marana won the District 5 Little League Majors softball championship on June 29 by beating Thornydale 2-0 in a best-of-three format.

— Sunnyside won the District 12 Little League Majors softball championship on June 29 with a 15-2 win over San Xavier.

— Oro Valley won the District 5 Little League Majors baseball title on June 29 with a 10-7 win over Marana.

— Thornydale won the District 5 Little League Juniors softball title on June 29 with a 28-19 win over Flowing Wells.

— Canyon View won the District 5 Little League 8-9-10 baseball title on June 29 with a 20-4 win over Tanque Verde.

— Canyon View won the District 5 Little League 9-10-11 baseball title on June 29 with a 7-0 win over CDO.

— Continental Ranch won the District 5 Little League Intermediate 50/70 championship on June 29 beating Western 2-0 in a best-of-three format.

— Rincon Little League of Vail had a highly successful summer. It won the District 12 championship in the 8-9-10 division on July 2 with a 13-1 win over Cactus. Its 9-10-11 all-star team also claimed the District 12 title by defeating Copper Hills 14-2 in the championship July 5.

— Nogales’ E.J. Mayer struck out 10 batters without a walk in 6 2/3 innings and also had two hits and two runs to lead his team to the Arizona Little League Intermediate 50/70 State Tournament championship on July 22 with an 11-3 win over Continental Ranch. Ruben Celaya also went 3 for 4 with a run, triple and RBI in the game played at Fleischer Park in Nogales.

— Sierra Vista took home the Seniors state championship trophy with its win over Winslow on July 14.


FC Tucson women’s team (Andy Morales/

The FC Tucson Women beat SC del Sol 3-0 on July 7 at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix to clinch the second conference championship for the program over the last three years of competition. Former head coach Amy Garelick led the team to the Pac South championship in 2018, with current head coach Kelly Pierce by her side. Pierce used some of her own magic to lead her 2021 squad to Desert Conference title this summer. Pierce was one of the original players in the inaugural 2013 season along with current players Priscilla and Laura Pimienta and then Brianna Barreiro joined the program in 2014. That foundation proved to be a solid one and it became the cornerstone of a program that demands strong leadership on the pitch. “Our chemistry is important and, as you know, vocal leadership is something I’m very passionate about,” said Pierce, who also coached Salpointe Catholic to a state title in March. “We have that with our experienced players and players that came in from other programs and they respond as a team to that leadership.” Former Catalina and Pueblo soccer standout Luz Duarte scored 12 goals to help lead FC Tucson to an undefeated 7-0-1 record. Duarte was named team MVP at a celebration held July 30 at Frog and Firkin where the championship trophy and individual medals were presented to the program by Pierce and club president Amanda Powers.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is a-warthogs-1024x470.jpg

The Santa Rita Warthogs came alive at the right time of the season and the clinching 9-8 victory over the Catalina Aztecs on July 15 at Kino Stadium for the Sun Belt College Baseball League championship. The league is operated by Bill Leith’s Kino Baseball League, a non-profit organization that has benefited the development of youth baseball locally in the last decade. A two-out walk-off single from Jacob Wiltshire (Sabino/New Mexico State) in the bottom of the ninth clinched the comeback championship and the Most Outstanding Player in the series trophy for Wiltshire. The Sun Belt College League is Arizona’s piece of summer baseball for college commits, prospects and current college athletes hoping to improve their game before they head back to their various campuses. The Aztecs came into the championship series with a 17-4 record with five of those victories being lopsided tilts with the Warthogs by an average score of 15-1. The Warthogs had an 11-9 record, barely passing the Old Pueblo Kings (10-11) and the Desert Vaqueros (9-11) for the chance to play the Aztecs in the best-of-three championship series.

Arizona Storm

Arizona Storm (Storm photo)

Tucson’s Arizona Storm captured the 2021 Women’s Wheelchair Basketball National Championship held in Arlington, Texas, on July 25. Team USA Paralympian Courtney Ryan scored 20 points and was named tournament MVP in the 51-31 victory over the Dallas Lady Mavs at the Toyota NWBA Women’s National Tournament presented by ABC Medical.

Ironwood Ridge girls golf

Ironwood Ridge golf state champs again (Andy Morales/

Ironwood Ridge entered the final round of the 2021 Division II State Championship on Oct. 26 up by only one stroke over Section I rival Salpointe but the Nighthawks put together an incredible final day that saw the program finish ahead of the Lancers 573 to 588. The 1-under-par second round of 283, and the 15-stroke victory, helped the Nighthawks win their third state title in a row at the Omni Tucson National. Ironwood Ridge because the first team from Southern Arizona to win three titles in a row and only Central (1965-1967), Chaparral (1999-2002), Cactus Shadows (2016-2018) and numerous Xavier teams recorded state championship streaks of three or more in a row in the state. Xavier did it three times with championship streaks of 8, 12 and 16 in its history. The team members coached by Doug Krautz and their finishes in the state tournament: (6th) Raina Ports (+1), (t9th) Celia Schrecker (+2), (t9th) Zoe Newell (+2), (14) Hannah Ports (+5) and (21st) Makenna Brown (+10).

Pima women’s soccer

Pima women’s soccer team (Pima photo)

Former Ironwood Ridge standout Alyssa Kopach scored two match-winning goals Oct. 30 to help send Pima to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament as the champion of NJCAA Region I, Division II for the first time since 2015. The team reached the national championship match for the first time in program history. Kopach scored the winner in a 2-0 victory over Mesa in the championship final in the 20th minute on an assist from former Catalina Foothills standout Caitlyn Maher. Former Cienega freshman Delaney Buntin scored in the 66th minute to close out the match. Kopach scored a golden goal in a 1-0 victory over Scottsdale in double overtime to send the Aztecs to the final against Mesa.

Pima men’s soccer

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.

— At the conclusion of the 2020-21 school year, the Pima men’s soccer team earned a spot in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament as the No. 1 seed by winning its fifth region title in seven years with a 2-0 win over No. 2 Phoenix College on May 16 at Pima. The Aztecs claimed the NJCAA Region I, Division II and NJCAA West District championships. They avenged their 1-0 loss to the Bears from April 24. It was also the fifth shutout victory for the Aztecs (10-1) this season. Former Sunnyside soccer standout Manuel Quiroz was named the Most Valuable Player of the NJCAA Region I, Division II and NJCAA West District championship after No. 1 Pima shut out No. 2 Phoenix College 2-0.

Salpointe boys cross country

Salpointe took home the boys cross country state title (Andy Morales/

The Salpointe boys won the 2021 Division III team championship on Nov. 14 at the Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix to give head coach Mike Urbanski his fifth combined state championship with two on the boys side and three from the girls.

Tucson Youth Football & Spirit Federation

13U Tucson Jaguars (D’Andre Davis/

The Tucson Youth Football & Spirit Federal City Championships were held at Tucson High on Nov. 6 after a year hiatus because of COVID-19 protocol. The results:

8U championship — No. 1 Tucson Thunder 26, No. 3 Oro Valley Dolphins 6

9U championship — No. 1 Tucson Jaguars 27, No. 2 Tucson Redskins 12

10U championship — No. 4 Sierra Vista Wolverines 31, No. 2 Tucson Wildcats 26

11U championship — No. 4 Tucson Jaguars 13, No. 2 Vail Vikings 6

12U championship — No. 1 Tucson Jaguars 32, No. 2 Tucson Raiders 0

13U championship — No. 1 Tucson Jaguars 48, No. 3 Vail Vikings 0.

The Tucson Jaguars 13U team earned the Desert Mountain Regional Championship and advanced to the AYF national championship tournament Dec. 5-10 at Kissimmee, Fla. The Jaguars, who have former Arizona player Syndric Steptoe’s son Kayden on the team, defeated the Las Vegas Apex Predators 15-6 in El Paso on Sunday for the region title.


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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