Natalie Bartle is set to lead Ironwood Ridge with new head coach Ken Leikem (Andy Morales/

Natalie Bartle is set to lead Ironwood Ridge with new head coach Ken Leikem (Andy Morales/

We will be previewing the winter sport season over the next couple of weeks or so and the responses you see below come directly from the coaches who returned a questionnaire. As you will see, the winter season is comprised of soccer, wrestling and basketball. All three sports deserve equal attention.

We are proud that our site is the only one in Southern Arizona that covered (and is still covering) cross country, swim and dive, small-school soccer, golf, volleyball and football during the fall season. We’ve been covering both boys and girls in programs from the 6A Conference to the 1A Conference.


Head coach: Damon Lovato
2015-16 record: 10-17

Top returners:
Raja Davis, Eileen Lujan, Sierra Wingfield

Top new player:
Anayah Romero

“We’re looking for our first playoff berth in a long time to complete the turnaround of a program that came off a two-win season the year prior to me being named coach. The original five players have played over 200 games together since 2014.”


Head coach: Casey O’Brien
2015-16 record: 17-6

Top returning players:
Brian Chumacera….was 2nd team all-city last year and was also one of the leaders in assists for the state.
Jesus Santacruz….plays goalie for the Gunners 99’s and plays wing for us…by far the most athletic player on our team, was also one of the top mile/800 meter runners in track.

New players:
Ulysses Torres-Palacios: He is a sophomore that plays on TVSC 01’s, one of the top club teams in the state. He is a versatile player and an instant impact player.
Jesus Barrios: Another sophomore player who is extremely strong defensively.

“Our team is really hoping to take the next step this year. We took second in Brandon Bean last year and first in Walden Grove but our real challenge is to make a push into the state playoffs.”


Head coach: Sara Denault
2015-16 record: 13-3
Finish: D-IV quarterfinals

Top returning players:
Junior Kayla West (MF/F), junior Kiana Oriero (F) and senior Sydney Phillips (D).

“Thatcher girl’s soccer had an excellent season last year. We lost a few seniors but we should still be a very strong team. We are ready for the season to begin.”


Head coach: Ken Leikem
2015-16 record: 23-8
Finish: Second round

Top returners”
Natalie Bartle (Junior) and Nicole Feltman (Senior). I have been pleased with the progress of Bayley Brennan (Senior), Carly Arechiga (Senior) and Caroline Finster (Sophomore).

“I hope to bring a fast pace, high intensity and exciting brand of basketball to Oro Valley.”


Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on Contact Andy Morales at




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