Want to create the pressure of a tie-game penalty kick in practice? Just condition its success on whether a team of soccer players has to run more than a mile after practice.
So when Desert Vista's Kelly Watson clutched the ball under her right elbow when the match was tied 1-1 in the 30th minute against Corona Del Sol, she was used to the pressure.
A few seconds later Watson slapped a penalty kick just past the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Lexi Bounds for her second goal of the night as the Thunder took the lead for good in a 3-1 come-from-behind victory to win the Tempe Diablos Classic girls soccer tournament championship.
"This game obviously was more pressure, but I really wasn't nervous about it, because we did practice it," Watson said. "(I thought I would) just hopefully place it in the back of the net, just like I did in practice. Simple like that."
The Aztecs gave Desert Vista its first deficit of the season in the 23rd minute. Corona converted a free kick into a drive that stopped 30 yards away from the goal, where Maddie Caldwell lobbed a shot over the head of the Thunder goalkeeper to give the Aztecs a 1-0 lead.
However, less than 60 seconds later the Thunder stormed up field and crashed the box on a pass from Hannah Stevens that was deflected until Watson chipped it in from close range after two Aztec defenders had collided and were on the ground.
A handball call in the box led to a penalty kick, and Watson put that away for a 2-1 halftime lead.
"Give them a lot of credit, we got the early goal, and their ability to respond and get that goal," Corona coach Matt Smith said. "That's a good goal for them. We talk a lot about you give up a goal, you get a goal right back. It took a lot of our momentum away and it went from there."
Tassia Saunders' goal made it a 3-1 lead 20 minutes into the second half.
The Aztecs tried to answer two minutes later on a cornerkick by Hallee Ahler to the head of Cara Ridley, but the shot was a couple feet wide of the goal.
"We've been working on multiple set plays, and multiple movements off the ball and they executed properly. They executed well together It was nice," said Desert Vista coach Marvin Hypolite. "They came out tonight and that was one of the topics - execution, accuracy. And they showed it."
With the two-goal lead the Thunder were able to drop three defenders back, and the Aztecs weren't able to log any shots afterward.
"I just had to switch up the system up a little bit, which they know, so we were able to switch the system when we are ahead by a significant amount of goals, and set the defensive kind of discipline and midfield discipline," Hypolite said. "They were able to switch it up and they did pretty well."