By Zach Alvira, GSN Sports Editor

Mia Duranczyk almost dreaded hearing the public-address announcer call her name during Campo Verde’s Senior Night for girls and boys soccer.
As she began walking toward the home bleachers, her family by her side and her teammates and the boys team cheering, her emotions got the best of her.
“I’m not going to remember the games or the scores, I’m going to remember my teammates and my friends,” Duranczyk said. “Soccer is such an emotional sport and it’s a bond like no other. It’s a connection you can’t make anywhere else.
“I will never forget them and I’m sad I have to leave them.”
The Coyotes had just lost to Casteel, but that was the last thing on the minds of those in attendance as the seniors were honored.
Duranczyk was on varsity three seasons, earning a scholarship offer to Claremont McKenna College, a Division III school in Claremont, Calif.
Voted a captain, Duranczyk, a senior middle fielder, had a team-leading 12 assists and 7 goals as the Coyotes went 13-6-1.
They expected a top-five seed in the 5A playoffs that opened Feb. 9.
“I’m going to miss them,” Campo Verde coach Andrew Guarneri said of the seniors. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the win but they’ve all learned a lot as people. At the end of the day we are trying to build character.”
Emotions also overcame the underclassmen while watching the seniors.
Junior forward Rylee Rottweiler admitted that she was happy, sad and everywhere in between. The seniors taught her techniques that helped her improve. More importantly, they helped her become a leader.
“They taught me to be humble, not selfish, and to help bring everyone together,” Rottweiler said. “I just hope I can live up to everything they have taught me.”
Rottweiler emerged as valuable role player. She leads the Coyotes with 19 goals and 8 assists.
A majority of her goals came from Duranczyk setting her up in front of the net. The two became close friends off the field, as well.
“I love her like a sister. She’s amazing,” Rottweiler said. “She’s done so much for me. She’s honestly made me a better person. She’s just a great role model.”
Rottweiler and Duranczyk know that they haven’t quite reached the end of the road playing together. A new season lies ahead in the playoffs.

Gilbert-area teams with
automatic playoff bids

6A Girls
Perry: Despite graduating nine seniors, the Pumas went 19-0-3. Junior Brenna Alderson and sophomores Joey Lujan and Mikella Reed all scored at least 10 goals. Perry is the likely No. 2 seed.
Highland: The Hawks (13-6-1) ended the regular season with a win over district-rival Desert Ridge to stay among the top eight. Sophomore Kaleigh Backlund (9 goals) is among a multitude of weapons all over the field.

5A Girls
Gilbert: The Tigers (13-4-2) are among a slew of teams expecting a top-five seed. Senior Amberly Hastings (24 goals, 12 assists) is a match-up nightmare.
Higley: The Knights earned an automatic berth at 9-8-2. Four players have at least 9 goals. The balanced squad likely will face one of the top teams from the play-in tournament Thursday.

3A Girls
Gilbert Christian: Former NFL kicker Jay Feely coached the team to 13-0 and the No. 3 seed. The Lady Knights defeated Arizona College Prep, 4-0, in the first round on Wednesday night. Gilbert Christian defeated ACP, 1-0, in January.

5A Boys
Campo Verde: The defending 5A state champions went 20-2-1 and are favored to repeat. Senior Christian Flores and sophomore Jorge Chavez lead the team in scoring.