Desert Vista High School’s varsity boys and girls soccer teams punched their tickets to the quarterfinals last week after first-round victories, but only one is moving to the semifinals this week.
The teams’ victories against Gilbert and Hamilton high schools gave them one more shot to defend their home turf on Saturday, but the girls came up short and their season ended.
The No. 2-seeded Thunder (15-4-2) will take on No. 3 Chandler (19-0-5) at Campo Verde High School at 7 p.m. today, Feb. 7.
The girls got the ball rolling on Saturday after having lost only three games all season, allowing 14 goals and pitching 10 shutouts along the way. But Hamilton’s defense had been just as good, allowing only nine goals.
Both teams showed their defensive prowess Saturday.
Desert Vista goalkeeper Amanda Green made numerous saves, coming out of the goal mouth to stop Huskie attacks before they could capitalize. Throughout the first half, the game remained scoreless as both teams created opportunities but couldn’t break through.
“Coming into the game, that was the plan, both teams kind of equalized each other, understanding that it might be a 1-0 game,” Desert Vista coach Marvin Hypolite said after his team’s loss.
In the second half, both teams created more opportunities and almost found the back of the net several times. With several free kicks on both sides, both goalkeepers and their defenses came up huge. On one instance, Hamilton countered after a Desert Vista free kick, only to be drawn offsides with a nifty offsides trap.
Just under two minutes later, the Thunder drew a penalty at the top of the 18-yard box to earn a free kick within striking distance but Hamilton blocked the shot.
Then Hamilton almost struck again, but defender Camille Bych was ready and waiting in the goal mouth to thwart another scoring opportunity by the Huskies.
Hamilton’s Dalinda Uselton ripped a shot just over the crossbar and Hamilton defender Jordyn Schulte made a last-second effort to carry the ball upfield and ripping a shot as time expired.
The horn blew with 0-0 on the scoreboard and the Thunder entered their second overtime match of the postseason. But, it didn’t take long for the Huskies to break into the scoring column.
The Huskies were awarded a free kick on the left side of the field about 30 yards from the net. Junior defenseman Maddy Reuter stepped up to the ball and delivered a lobbing pass that landed around the goal mouth and was tapped in by Callie Darst.
Hamilton took the 1-0 lead and never looked back, capturing their second straight postseason victory and setting up a matchup with No. 1 Xavier Prep.
Despite the loss, Hypolite was happy with his team’s season.
“Moving into the postseason, after having almost one loss in the regular season, not conceding that many goals and outscoring our opponents by a considerable amount, I think we had a very successful season” Hypolite said. “This postseason is a different ballgame altogether, and it does sting a little bit right now, but we had a very good season.”
While the girls missed out on a second straight semifinals appearance, the boys captured their semifinals appearance with a 7-2 victory over the No. 10 San Luis Sidewinders.
Leading scorer Max Wennes, who finished with a hat trick Saturday afternoon, followed up a Jonathan Munoz shot in front of the net just five minutes into the game.
Throughout the game, the Thunder placed pressure on the Sidewinders with their setpiece execution.
They also utilized their speed to make long runs to the corners and sent crosses into the middle of the box. But while the Thunder created several opportunities, the Sidewinders seemed to control a majority of the possession in the first half.
“That’s how we anticipated they were gonna play,” Elliot said. “We anticipated they were going to play to possession and move the ball around, and they actually played it over the top a little more than we expected, so we had to adjust a little there.”
At the 14-minute mark, the Thunder added their second goal of the half. Senior midfielder Brendan Hicks, a Butler commit, ripped a shot into the back of the net from the top of the 18-yard box, giving the Thunder a 2-0 lead.
The Sidewinders attempted to keep it close as the first half expired, ripping a volley into the back of the net.
“I think the first half, we were rushing ourselves and we were in our own head,” Desert Vista coach Trent Elliot said. “So, that was just my big piece of advice at halftime, was just to relax and play how were capable of playing and we’ll get the goals.”
That’s exactly what happened. Within five minutes of the start of the second half, the Thunder scored three goals to expand their lead to 5-1. First, Munoz beat the San Luis keeper to a ball in the box and tapped in a header from about 10 yards out.
Next, Wennes added his second of the day, making a steal on the right sideline, dribbling up the side and lofted a shot over the goal keepers head and into the back of the net. Senior defenseman Jordan Hall added the third goal, scoring on a throw-in that the goalkeeper brushed his fingers against as it dropped into the net.
Wennes added his third goal of the night, with 16 minutes left in the game, capping off his hat trick and securing their quarter final victory.
The senior striker attributed his success to having the opportunity to use his speed.
“I noticed that they were playing a really high back line,” Wennes said. “So that allowed me to use my speed up top and our midfielders were playing really good diagonal balls where I could run onto them and I was just able to put it over the keeper.”
With the victory, the boys finished undefeated at home in the 2017-2018 season – a goal since the start of the new year.
“That was a goal after Christmas break because we didn’t play any home games before Christmas break,” Elliot said. “So, for the seniors they wanted to be undefeated at home, and host playoff games. So, for us to get two playoff wins at home is huge for them and our confidence as we move forward.”