David Varkevisser is loving this American soccer thing.
The Gilbert exchange student from the Netherlands wasn't sure what to make of high school soccer considering the Dutch only plays at the club level.
Varkevisser, a tall and lanky junior, was lucky in that his host family lived in the boundaries of one of the state's premier soccer programs and the Tigers are benefitting from having a player with knack for the game and the ability to use both feet.
It was all on display Tuesday as he helped the No. 3 Tigers to a second-half surge to beat No. 14 Desert Vista 3-1.
After a scoreless half that saw the Tigers (20-2) control the tempo to no avail, Varkevisser started the scoring with a re-direct with 28 minutes and 41 seconds remaining.
The Thunder (11-5) answered almost immediately when Gilbert was called for a foul in the box, leading to a successful penalty kick by Cesar Sandoval.
Varkevisser helped break the tie on a centering pass that found the foot of senior Emmanuel Castillo, who hit the top of the goal for the lead at the 65th minute.
"We kept the pressure and aggressiveness," Varkevisser said. "We got frustrated, but kept the pressure on and we got it going."
Junior Cody Schultz finished off the scoring on a nice individual effort for the 3-1 lead and a Saturday home date with defending state champion Brophy at 2 p.m.
"We were doing what we needed to, we just couldn't stick one in the back of the net," Gilbert coach Jeff Perry said. "They're very organized. We did what we needed according to our game plan. They defended well, their keeper made a couple nice saves and we missed some chances. We finally got some to go in the second half."
The Thunder saw their season come to an end against a superior team that had a physical edge.
Desert Vista starts four seniors with some freshmen and sophomores mixed in throughout the lineup.
“They played better than us,” Thunder coach Mike Rabasca said. “I think we peaked a little bit too soon (this season). I have to keep reminding myself how incredibly young we are. Although our schedule was light, it is hard for that young of a group to keep pace for that long.
"Gilbert is probably top four in the state in terms of physical quality - speed, strength and endurance - and for us to win we would have had to score early."
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.