DV Soccer

Connor Stevens wins the ball against Hamilton's TJ Palacio Wednesday night at Desert Vista High School. 

It took Hamilton’s Channing Chasten just under eight minutes to score against No. 2-seeded Desert Vista in the first round of the AIA 6A boys soccer tournament Wednesday night in Ahwatukee. But, it was the Thunder who built a 2-1 lead going into the half and never looked back, beating the No. 15-seeded Huskies, 3-2, and moving onto the second round.

The two teams battled back and forth all night. They shared most of the possession, but did so in different ways. The Thunder attacked the corners and sent a barrage of passes into the 18-yard box, while the Huskies used a passing attack up the middle of the field.

Chasten, an Ohio State commit, scored the first goal of the game after receiving a through pass from a teammate, sneaking the ball past Desert Vista goalkeeper Samson Wennes. Just eight minutes later, the Thunder struck back when senior defenseman Jordan Hall connected with Brendan Hicks on a long throw-in for a header in the middle of the six-yard box.

Taking advantage of their size, with Hall at 6-foot-1, Hicks at 6-foot-2, and midfielder John Johnson at 6-foot-3, was something that Desert Vista did all night long, creating several scoring opportunities on corner kicks and throw-ins.

“You line us up to any team and were gonna have more size than them and that’s something we’ve used to our advantage all season long,” Head Coach Trent Elliot said. “But, it’s not just about their size, they know how to use their body smart and we’ve used a combination of those things to have a successful season.”

Just over five minutes later, the Thunder took the lead at the 19-minute mark and they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game. Senior forward Connor Stevens used his signature speed to break down the sideline and set a cross into the six-yard box where he found junior Xavier Wilson who punched it in for the third goal of the night.

Desert Vista went into the half with a one goal lead, but one thing that went unnoticed was the physicality of the first half, that carried into the second as well. The referees handed out four yellow cards throughout the game, but with their seasons on the line it was somewhat expected.

“We expected it, especially as it got alter in the game,” Elliot said. “We knew that if they were pressing and it was later in the game that it was going to be more physical we just had to stay strong in the back and continue to talk so we knew where everybody was.”

That physicality showed after a 20-minute scoring drought to start the second half when the Thunder drew a foul in Hamilton’s 18-yard box, earning a penalty kick. Desert Vista’s leading goal scorer Max Wennes stepped to the spot and placed the ball into the bottom right corner for the 3-1 lead.

Three minutes later, Chasten answered the Thunder’s goal with his second goal of the night, finishing off a throw-in in the middle of the six-yard box to bring Hamilton within one goal. Then, with 15-minutes remaining, Jesse Maldanado came a few inches away from tying up the game when he banged a shot from 20 yards out off the crossbar.

That was the closest the Huskies would come to tying up the ball game as the Thunder walked away victorious. Despite Hamilton’s ranking heading into the game, Elliot knew that they were in for a battle against the Huskies.

“I think coming into it, even with their 15 seed we knew that Hamilton was a good team,” Elliot said. “So we knew what to expect, and not even relating it to the game we played in the regular season, but moving forward this was huge for us.”  

The Thunder will put their undefeated record at home on the line once again when they take on No. 10-seeded San Luis on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Desert Vista High School.

Do you have a human-interest or feature story idea? Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at gmacafee@timespublications.com. or by phone at 585-610-2344.  Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee and the Sports Department at @TMG__sports

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