Over the last five years Desert Vista’s girls soccer has been one of the elite programs in the state.
The Thunder won the state 5A-I championship in 2005 and have been the runner-up in three other seasons, including last year when they lost to Tempe Corona del Sol in an overtime shootout.
But even with 12 starters returning from that squad, this year’s team has learned not to be cocky about success.
“Two years ago we felt like we had arrived and went into the playoffs thinking we had it wrapped up,” Desert Vista coach Paul Manoogian said as the Pride prepared for this season.
Desert Vista lost in the opening round to underdog and rival Mountain Pointe, which went on to win its first title.
“We figured we were legit,” Manoogian said, “and I over-coached at times, but we’ve learned we have to stay humble.”
This season Manoogian has two players he said should be all-state candidates and an experienced goal keeper.
Senior forward Samantha Rall scored nine goals last season and Manoogian feels she could put even more in the back of the net this year. Junior Mackenzine Semerad should also be an important part of the mix.
Senior goalie Hannah Fadenrecht improved as the season went on last year and turned out to be another key to the Thunder’s run at the title.
“Hannah didn’t get any consideration because no one knew her last season because she didn’t play the year before,” Manoogian added. “She just got better toward the end of the season.”
As a sophomore, sweeper Julia Waterhouse got plenty of experience last year.
“I don’t know if she came off the field more than three minutes last year and that was when she got hurt,” Manoogian said. “She’s the one who communicates with the other backs.”
Another senior, Ellen Trotter, also helped keep things under control last season from her outside back position.
In addition to the eight seniors, Desert Vista also had three freshmen looking for a spot on the roster this year.
Midfielder Kelly Watson has a chance to be among the freshmen to start.
“By this time of the year I know that starting lineup is going to be,” Manoogian said, “but there are still some spots that are wide open and you have to start from scratch to build the chemistry.”
That’s where Jenn Thronson, a member of the 2005 championship team, comes in as an assistant, Manoogian added.
“She brings a lot to the program and takes care of the little things,” Manoogian said.
This is Thronson’s fourth season on the sidelines.
Other seniors on the team are: Alex Morrison, McKenzie Porhola, Allie Waldow, Kelsie Dixon, Jana Steuber and Molly Clatanoff.
Another change that should help the Thunder remain unpretentious is a new conference.
Desert Vista has left the familiar Central Region where it got to know Chandler Basha. Tempe Corona del Sol and Mountain Pointe moved to the Fiesta Region with powerhouses like Phoenix Xavier, Chandler, Chandler Hamilton, Mesa and Mesa Red Mountain.
Xavier, Hamilton and Red Mountain were among the top 10 teams in the playoffs last season.
“It’s probably the toughest region, along with the Central, in the state,” Manoogian added. “I think that state champion will come out of one of those two regions this year.”
Desert Vista faces rival Mountain Pointe is the season opener on Dec. 1 at Mountain Pointe, then host Corona on Dec. 4 before going into the Tempe Diablo tournament at the Tempe Sports Complex the second week of December.