The Desert Vista soccer family was setup to have one amazing day.
It might not have come together fully on Saturday at Campo Verde and the players walked away crying and shaking their head in disappointment, but the accomplishments made in the 2012-13 season were not tarnished.
The Thunder girls and boys soccer played a Division I state title doubleheader as both teams did just about everything right this season.
Both squads were just a bit off. Their opponents — Xavier and Brophy — may have had something to do with it. Or maybe the Thunder players, none of whom had played in a state title match, weren’t at their best when they needed to be.
Whatever the case, Desert Vista soccer programs came up just a little short as the girls lost 1-0 to Xavier and the boys fell 2-0 to Brophy.
“Brophy seemed a step ahead, a little quicker reaction,” Thunder boys coach Mike Rabasaca said. “I don’t know that we played anyone that quick and sharp, so we had to adjust to something we hadn’t seen before accept maybe in California (tournament). The second half we played far better, but didn’t get the quality chances I thought we’d get.
“(The season) was a success obviously. Not everyone can win a state championship. Sixteen teams make the state tournament and 15 go home losers. I think Brophy is the best and we were probably second.”
The match was scoreless after the first half when the Broncos seemed to always be in possession of the ball and that was without four starters — including the All-State forward Riggs Lennon — for the first half of the match for what Rabasaca called “discipline” issues stemming from late in the team’s semifinals match against Tolleson.
At full strength, the Broncos scored with less than six minutes left into the second half on a Ryan Grotjohn rebound goal and then Lennon capped it with another ricochet goal to give Brophy its second title in three seasons after finishing as runner-up last season.
The Thunder’s defense held on most of the night while the offense struggled to get anything going, but DV had a golden chance a few minutes later. On a rare run through Brophy’s zone, a perfect centering pass by John Abernathy found Nick Mangialardi (seven goals this postseason) in front of the Brophy net. His mid-air shot was hit flush, but hit the crossbar.
Desert Vista put the pressure on Brophy more often in the second half after a couple minor adjustments and urgency, but Broncos goalie Phil Mourikes — filling in for Michael O’Connor who suffered a concussion earlier in the state tournament — made three saves.
It just wasn’t enough.
“This was a total team effort this year and I am proud of what were able to do.” senior Josh Greene said. “We gave them everything we had. There are no regrets.”
The girls game, which was played first, had a similar feel.
The effort was there, but the execution was off. Usually there is crispness to the Thunder’s passing and toughness to its defense.
Against Xavier too many passes ended up at the feet of a Gator and many of the Xavier set plays led to breakouts.
“Execution wasn’t our best,” Desert Vista Thunder coach Marvin Hypolite said. “We’ve played better, but you know what I am very proud of these girls. I expect a lot of them and they gave me everything they had.”
For 70 minutes, neither Xavier or Desert Vista could find the right combination. Both teams had its share of possession although the Gators seemed to gain the upper hand in the second half.
Nevertheless, it took a defender to break the deadlock and validate a long, rocky season for the perennial power in No. 4 Xavier’s victory against No. 2 Desert Vista.
Kelly Peay got her head on a corner kick from Alexis Allard with under 10 minutes left in regulation for the only score.
The Thunder defense, including sophomore goalie Alexa Ryder, defenders Alison Richardson, Kari Kastelic and Hannah Stevens, thwarted several Xavier offensive runs until the game winner. The Thunder offense didn’t have its usual precision and had few legitimate scoring chances with Tatum Heeres, Rachel Ressler and Kelly Waston.
Desert Vista had nine seniors see their high school careers come to an end. It led to some emotional exchanges on the sidelines afterward. It was hard to understand in the moment, but they will eventually look back and realize how much they accomplished.
“We’ll come back even better next year,” said Stevens, one of those seniors. “The hard part is knowing we won’t be part of it. We were so close. I’ll be there to support them.”
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