McKenzie Meegan had a ring-side seat.
Unfolding in front of her was a physical, knock-down-drag-out soccer match and she saw everything she wanted to from her spot in goal even though she could not help out her Desert Vista teammates.
"We didn't back down and had each other's back, and didn't retaliate as much," the Thunder's senior goalie said. "We play so well together because we are always fighting for each other."
Desert Vista, the 12th seed, will get at least one more match to prove it as the Thunder play in the Division I state quarterfinals on Saturday at No. 4 Pinnacle at 2 p.m.
That is, if they heal up.
Desert Vista beat Red Mountain 2-1 with a penalty kick by Brooke Leftwich with 4.9 seconds left in the first-round on Wednesday in a match that might have seen more players flat on the ground than upright. There were a lot of slide kicks, pushes in the back, trips and yellow cards.
"The refs let it get out of hand, but we responded," Thunder first-year coach Marvin Hypolite said. "This team has heart. We didn't lose our composure and we are able to play through it. I really liked it."
Desert Vista, which lost one of its top defenders - Jackie Janssen - to a foot injury recently, has long been one of the state's better programs and the team has not slipped a bit under Hypolite, who replaced Paul Manoogian and his two state runner-up finishes and two semifinal appearances.
At 19-3 the Thunder have built on the 8-0 start to the season and are in the midst of another eight-match win streak. The success comes partly from the "two-a-days" practice schedule the team has been on since Hypolite has taken over.
The morning practices before school, with long runs, has been about building stamina for a long postseason run.
"We are ready to run teams into the ground," said senior Jessica Johnson, who will play at North Dakota next year. "Our legs are strong and we know we can win games at the end because of our conditioning."
Hypolite wasn't sure what to expect of the postseason at the high school level, but the longtime club coach now has a clear picture.
"It reminded me of when I was playing, very intense," he said. "I want to keep coaching and they want to keep playing. I told them I want opportunities to coach and I said, ‘You've got to go out and execute.' (I've got) one under my belt and I'm ready for the next one."
That will come against Pinnacle, which went 11-1 in power point matches, with a shot of making the semifinals once again.
"This year we have had a lot of team bonding, and work well together," Meegan said. "We are going to win state."
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