Evidently the Desert Vista boys’ and girls’ soccer teams had to be knocked down by adversity before they could attain the success that was expected of them.
Both now boast winning records and take championship expectations into the 6A playoffs. It wasn’t a smooth run.
Both lost senior leaders after posting winning records and making playoff runs in 2018. The girls reached the 6A quarterfinals, the boys won state.
They both had early-season skids – the defending state-champion boys opened 1-2-2, the girls started 2-3-1 – which ended with quality performances in the AZ Soccer Showcase in December. The girls won the tournament, winning all four games. The boys won two of three.
And, through five 6A Central Region games, both went undefeated, allowing one goal each.
The girls’ lone goal to Corona del Sol on Jan. 29 was the only one they’ve allowed since December. They’ve won 13 consecutive games heading into the playoffs.
“We go into every game not necessarily nervous, but looking to not let up. It matters a lot to us,” said senior Sophia Budge.
Renewed commitment to defense reversed the fortunes of both teams.
The girls also attribute their recent success to chemistry on and off the field. They have a group text that contains thoughts and feelings about everything from tough practices to life. Beyond the text thread are off-the-field team activities like sleepovers. They’ve become comfortable together and learned each other’s tendencies on the field.
“Lately we’ve been really good at switching the point of attack on the field, which can make it harder for the other teams to defend,” said Megan Brouse, a senior. “A lot of that is about knowing what the other girls are doing and where they’re going to run.”
While communication always was there for the boys, the execution was not.
DV boys coach Trent Elliott said it took losses and frustration for them to realize it was not the same unit that blew out Brophy Prep last February in the title game. Though the expectations were the same, the personalities and style of play changed.
“I think they finally found an identity for themselves,” Elliott said. “We knew we were always going to be strong in the back, and then we’d move the ball around and try to get goals where we can get them, playing scrappy and doing what we can up there.”
Elliott attributes Desert Vista’s defensive success to its solid back line of four seniors who are among the stingiest in the state.
“They’ve been great, and not giving up those goals gave us more and more confidence each game,” Elliott said. “We might not score eight goals a game, but if we’re shutting out the other team it only takes one.”
The boys and girls players are each other’s biggest fans.
“It’s cool to see both of us doing so well,” said senior Emily Carney. “I think it would be amazing for both of our teams to win state because that’s never happened before. It would kind of show how great Desert Vista soccer can be.”
Neither will be ranked atop their respective 6A brackets when playoffs begin this weekend and both have lost close games against teams they might face in the late rounds. However, the Thunder squads have shown that they can make long playoff runs when playing at their best.
“The stars would have to align for us to both make it, but it would be so cool and kind of prove we’re a powerhouse,” senior Parker Lischwe said. “Hopefully our games won’t be the same day so we can watch each other.”