The Desert Vista soccer programs were unable to pull off the dual celebration this time around.

A year after the Thunder swept the trophies at the Billy Vanney/Tempe Diablo tournaments, both squads were knocked out in the semifinals on Thursday at the Tempe Sports Complex. The Thunder boys fell 2-0 to Hamilton, while the girls dropped a hard-fought 2-1 tilt with Highland.

They are finding out early last year is long gone and both programs, after each finished as Division I state runners-ups, need to flush out a new identity.

“It was hard to defend our title, but we are ready to work and come back and show them what we have,” junior Hannah Gavin said. “We have a lot of talent and potential on this team. We are still trying to figure out our rhythm.”

Both squads lost large and talented senior classes, but the standard they built remains.

Through last week’s tournament the transition hasn’t been easy as the boys team won just two of its first six matches and the girls were just .500 in the first six matches.

It’s clearly a small sample size and adjustments will be made. It’s why early season events like Diablo tournament are vital to a team’s development.

“I think this team is still trying to figure out who they are,” Thunder boys coach Mike Rabasca said. “Usually by this time we have an idea of what kind of team we are, but these guys have a little more ways to go, which is a real concern. You don’t want to go into more power point games trying to figure things out considering we are already 0-2.”

The Thunder play two matches this week before the Christmas break and make its annual trip to California where team bonding on the field is just as important as action on the field.

The Desert Vista girls have played well even in defeat as all were just by one goal and came against Hamilton and twice to Highland.

The loss in the semis to the Hawks came in the final minutes in a hard fought, physical match. It was clear the Thunder is ready to compete at a high level already and with a few tweaks they could be back in title contention at the end of the year.

“We are playing on a lot of high emotions right now,” Thunder coach Marvin Hypolite said. “I believe once we settle down, get more games plays, we will get there.”

The Mountain Pointe programs are off to a bit of a slow start as neither was able to advance out of the pool play at the Diablo tournament last week.

Pride boys coach Bryan Sabato, whose team was 1-4 overall heading into Monday’s action including 0-3 in the tournament, is having a devil of time getting a handle on his squad in the early going.

“It’s very disappointing right now,” said Sabato, whose squad takes on Hamilton Wednesday at 4 p.m. “We can’t figure out how to defend. We can’t figure out what time we want to be when we have the ball. We can’t really figure out what kind of team we want to be when we don’t have the ball.

“Guys that need to step up aren’t stepping up.”

The Pride girls, who were 2-3 overall heading into Monday’s action, including 0-3 in the tournament, were changing up personnel and formations in order for Mark Wilson can get a feel for his squad.

“It’s didn’t work out today,” he said after the 3-1 loss to Chandler on Dec. 10. “We are working on some things and we’ll do the same (in a 1-0 loss to Corona on Dec. 11). We play them next week when it matters (power points) so I don’t want to show them my hand. We will mix it up.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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