The season came to an end once again too early for the Desert Vista girls soccer program.

But if the Thunder can zoom out - despite the disappointment - and take a look at the big picture the program remains one of the state's best.

Desert Vista's season came to end on Wednesday when it lost 3-1 to two-time defending champion Phoenix Xavier at Campo Verde High in the Class 5A Division I state semifinals.

"We will be back here at this time next year," Desert Vista coach Paul Manoogian said. "We had our chances to put the ball in the net this game. In the months of January and February we found our stride and kept plugging away and stayed strong mentally. We had a couple of defensive lapses in the second half that hurt us."

The Thunder will lose a big senior class, including five who are going on to play at the college level, but last year's state semifinals team did well.

The group coming back - led by sophomore Rachel Ressler, junior MacKenzie Meegan, sophomore Kaylee Glenn and junior Jackie Janssen - will be a candidate to keeping the program rolling.

The Thunder has made the semifinals four times in five years and has finished the season as state runners-up.

The core of the team knows the standard and will do its best to remain there.

The senior class of 10 players is one of the strongest the program has seen and players like MacKenzie Semerad, KK Tupponce, Kyle Neale, Julia Waterhouse, Nicole Adams, Jessica Cutter and Ellen Trotter turned the program around the last two months.

It just didn't come together against Xavier.

The game started slowly as neither team was able to get a good look at a shot.

Both defenses stayed between the ball and the goal as the first real threat came with 23 minutes left in the first half when Adams of the Thunder kicked a ball high towards the top of the net, which Xavier goalkeeper Hannah Griffith made a fantastic save on by jumping to catch the ball at its highest point, inches from the top of the goal post.

That was just the start of some great plays as with 13:46 remaining in the first half as Xavier's Emily Holzmeister shot from about the 25-yard line and kicked it through the net over the head of the Desert Vista goalkeeper MacKenzie Meegan, for a 1-0 Gator lead.

The Thunder answered with 6:30 left in the first half on a goal by freshman Brenna Leftwich to tie the match.

Leftwich fought for the ball and took it away from the defender giving her just enough room and time to kick the ball through the corner of the net from about 20 yards out.

Xavier had one final shot to break the tie before the first half ended but missed off the left goalpost with about five seconds left in the first half.

At the start of the second half both teams missed several shots off the goalpost and neither was able to gain a clear advantage.

"These are two similar teams and both like to possess the ball," Xavier coach Barb Chura said. "Desert Vista takes possession a lot by booming kicks out to their side of the field, our girls were great at staying in front and not letting them get ahead of us."

Finally with 11:07 left in the second half, Xavier freshman Nikki Walts broke the tie with a goal on an assist from Holzmeister.

The rest of the second half the Thunder tried to tie the game with a couple of long distance shots but none were very close as Xavier appeared to wear down Desert Vista.

"Our girls made smart decisions late and started listening to a lot of what we were telling them," Chura said.

The Gators would add a final goal with about 2:00 left in the game as Walts scored on an assist from Sam O'Connor.

Freelancer Morrie Ostroff contributed to this story.


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