Late goals plagued both Desert Vista boys’ and girls’ soccer in the 6A playoff semifinals on Saturday, February 16 in Gilbert.
Tied at 0-0, the Thunder girls allowed a goal to with six minutes remaining in the game to senior Molly Hedger of undefeated Perry, a team that has allowed just one goal all season. Hours earlier, the boys tied Hamilton 1-1 on an excellent volley by junior Jonathan Munoz. With four minutes left, Husky senior Channing Chasten found himself open for a shot and slotted a game-winner into the left corner.
Emotions flew from both teams after the respective losses, especially from the seniors who completed their high school soccer careers. However, the Thunder squads have been part of successful runs in the past four seasons.
The Thunder boys fell just short of a re-match with Brophy Prep in the state championship game. Desert Vista won the 2017-18 title with a dominating 3-0 victory last season, despite Trent Elliott coaching his first season with the varsity team.
Desert Vista lost five games this season prior to the playoffs, so the players knew they could be defeated, but senior Jack Johnson said the team has been riding high since hoisting the trophy a year ago.
“It’s been kind of like a honeymoon phase for us, winning state last year with a new coach and then a bunch of us coming back,” Johnson said. “That’s been in the back of our minds for a while now, and really this is the first time we really have been let down in a couple years.”
Since the 2015-16 season, the boys have made the playoffs each year. Elliott said it has been a pleasure to see how the boys have grown as players and young men.
“I’ve known a lot of these seniors since I coached them in sixth grade. It has been amazing to see them improve and show the younger guys the way to practice and win so they can do so next year. I told them they should be proud of what they’ve accomplished, and the loss in this game does not define their careers here,” Elliott said.
Like the boys, Desert Vista’s senior girls leave behind a legacy of success. The Thunder reached at least the playoff quarterfinals in each of the past four seasons. A few of the current seniors were freshmen and JV players when the varsity team won the championship on penalty kicks over Hamilton following the 2015-16 season.
Coming into the year with high expectations, the Thunder began the season winning just two of their first six games. Coach Marvin Hypolite said making a deep run in the playoffs at all was a success after the way the year began.
The strength of the Thunder’s team chemistry is a testament to the way the seniors conducted themselves on the field and prepared the younger players to become team leaders themselves in the future.
“We don’t have any issues or problems on the team and that says a lot about their leadership. They make it easy to do my job as a coach,” Hypolite said.
Both teams will celebrate successful runs in this year’s season in the following days, with banquets and dedications to the senior captains and families that made the last four years possible.
After that, the Desert Vista soccer teams will look to the future, with quality returning players and plenty of motivation to avenge this season’s playoff exits.
“I think just like this year, we will have a really strong back four again. We have a lot of really juniors that just didn’t start because this year’s seniors were there, but they’re going to be really good and I know they will do what they can for us to get back here,” Elliott said.
“I think this gives us more venom and excitement in terms of looking forward to next year,” Hypolite added. “I’m looking forward to that younger class we have been grooming to really step up. They have been led by a great group of seniors and juniors and I think we are in good hands.”
We don’t have any issues or problems on the team and that says a lot about their leadership. They make it easy to do my job as a coach