The Mountain Pointe girls soccer team won eight of its first nine matches, including several where the deciding goal came in the second half, if not, the final minutes.

It's no wonder why.

"We run a lot," senior forward Karen Kierstad said. "We start with three miles. It really gives us an edge late in games."

An example came in last Wednesday's win over Tempe Corona del Sol in the Tempe Diablo Tournament.

The scoreless game that featured a lot of back and forth offensive runs to no avail became a Pride victory when Kierstad was in place on a secondary chance when an initial shot bounded out of the Corona goalies hands.

Kierstad got to the loose ball before everyone else, took a shot that bounced off the goalie's hands about 10 feet away from the goal and the trajectory was just high enough to get over the defender's head.

It's all that was needed to keep Mountain Pointe alive in the tournament and an indicator that this relatively all new team is ready to be a force this season.

The Pride went on to make the finals of the tournament before falling to Chandler Hamilton.

"We have been working hard," fourth-year coach Mark Wilson said. "Nothing like a little bit of hard work. We had high expectations coming in and it has come together.

"But there is room for growth. We are still learning about each other and I look forward to seeing where we are at in January."

The Pride lost seven seniors from last year's 16-7 squad that lost 1-0 to Gilbert Highland in the Class 5A Division I quarterfinals so the roster has a bunch of new players.

Although it is hard to tell from the results the team is still finding an identity with the influx of new faces.

"We knew we were going to have a young team and it was going to be hard pulling together at first with only three seniors," senior forward Ellie St. Aubin said. "A lot of the teams are even right now and it is every man for itself.

"Hopefully we can put ourselves in a position to peak at the right time. We are improving every day. That's all we can ask for right now."

The Pride have four captains in place to make sure that happen as defenders Alyson Coker, a junior, and Morgan Phister, a senior who also plays some goalie, join St. Aubin and Kierstad. They have been put into place to make sure what Wilson makes it through the ranks.

"One of the criteria of being a captain is to make sure everyone knows what we are trying to accomplish," Wilson said. "They have to lead by example."

After the tournament the team plays a handful more of non-region games before tackling the East Valley Region schedule in an attempt to defend its title.

"The girls really want to win the game," Kierstad said. "We seem to be more intense in the second half and it's a good sign that we can finish strong. We have high hopes for the season. This year it seems like it is more wide open (at the state level). We have a lot of work to do, but this team likes to work hard."

The team is also getting contributions from sophomore forward Cera Hassinan and freshman goalie Claire Wilmink.

It gives the Pride a good core of players that might not have the same type of talent as the 2008 squad that won the 5A-I title, but there is plenty of incentive to get to that level.

"He hates losing," St. Aubin said of Wilson. "He gets real quiet and doesn't even want to talk to us. He'd rather break both legs than lose."

Wilson admits that he has an aversion to losing, but knows this team has some improving to do before it can start thinking about how it will fare at state.

"I expect to win every game," Wilson said. "It is the way you have to approach it. We have to improve in passing, communication, our attack and our understanding of the game.

"We are young, but there is nothing wrong with winning while you learn."

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