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9:44 PM Wed, Nov. 14th

Prescott, Bradshaw boys open new year as co-hosts of Alliance

Now in its third year, the Alliance Soccer Invitational in Prescott and Prescott Valley hopes to have its best-ever boys tournament ... not only on the field between competitors, but behind the scenes.

The future may see an expanded field, but for at least this year, Prescott coach Shean Hilton and Bradshaw Mountain coach Hugh Bell want to keep it to eight teams. And serving those eight teams is high on the agenda.

"We take care of everything at our site, the water, balls, ball boys ... the teams just have to show up and play," Hilton said. "The players get a free T-shirt, the head coaches get a very nice polo shirt, we put together a nice program for the players. It's something extra that most players are used to when they go to an invitational."

The tournament could actually be getting bigger in the near future.

"Truthfully, we had a chance to expand because so many folks were interested in our tournament," Bell said. "We thought it might be a better idea to stay with our eight teams this year, and then with more time next year, think about the possibility of expanding to 12. That being said, that would also require us to add another facility to play on."

This year, the championship round will be played Saturday at Ken Lindley Field, home to JUCO powerhouse Yavapai College. With longtime coach Mike Pantalione on hand, Hilton said that is yet another advantage for players competing.

"It's really nice for the players. It's a nicer facility, the field is much better and it gives the kids an opportunity to visit with Coach Pantalione and visit the locker room," Hilton said. "You never know, we might have a player come to play at Yavapai."

On paper, this year's Alliance Invite appears to be rather tough, if the statewide preseason rankings published by SoccerAZ.com are taken seriously. Six of the eight teams in this year's field are ranked, five of those in 4A-II.

"We have a good shot at winning the whole thing," Prescott's Hilton said. "We have a lot to prove yet. If you look at those rankings alone, one could visualize a Prescott vs. Bradshaw championship game."

In the SoccerAZ.com rankings, Prescott is ranked No. 4 in Class 4A-I. Over in 4A-II, Bradshaw Mountain is No. 2, the highest ranking of any team in the tournament.

Bell doesn't put any weight on such lofty preseason predictions, especially since he lost more players from last year's team than opposing coaches probably realize. Still, it makes for interesting conversation. Other ranked teams in the tourney include No. 5 Coronado, No. 8 Tempe, No. 9 Flagstaff and No. 10 Sinagua, all in 4A-II.

Mingus and Desert Edge are the only tournament teams without a preseason ranking.

The tournament features pool play today through Thursday. In the PHS bracket, the Badgers are joined by Tempe, Sinagua and Coronado. On the Bradshaw side, the Bears will compete against Mingus, Flagstaff and Desert Edge, which replaces Greenway.

Teams play one game each of the first three days and earn points for wins or ties. On Saturday at Ken Lindley, the fourth-place team out of the PHS bracket will play the fourth-place team out of the BMHS bracket, and so on. The championship is scheduled for 4 p.m.