Some teams don’t know how to play with a lead.

That isn’t a problem for the Desert Vista girls soccer team, at least not according to head coach Paul Manoogian. Rather, it’s getting to that point in the first place.

The sixth-seeded Thunder plodded their way to a 2-0 victory over No. 11 Mesa Desert Ridge in the opening round of the Class 5A-I state playoff Wednesday night.

After Desert Vista senior forward Alex Morrison opened the scoring inside five minutes to play in the first half, it was Thunder junior midfielder Jessica Schafer, with 15 minutes to play in regulation, who widened the scoring gap with Desert Vista’s second goal.

And even though the Thunder failed to score again, after that goal, Manoogian explained, was the only time all game Desert Vista played like he is convinced it’s capable of.

“We really started playing better soccer when we got up two goals,” Manoogian said. “All of a sudden we got up two goals – and we did have a couple of subs in – and we started moving the ball around better.”

Manoogian said that when teams often get multiple-goal leads, they tend to go into relaxation mode – in some capacity or another.

“We get a lead, then we kind of relax and say, ‘Hey, this is soccer, we know how to play soccer.’” Manoogian said. “When other teams get up 2-0, 3-0, they get too relaxed the other way and become complacent. We don’t get complacent, we get better – more technical.”

Morrison scored her goal semi-kamikaze style – “There was a cross, and that’s my favorite thing to do, to just run in as fast as you can go toward the net” – when she picked up the pass in front of the Desert Ridge goal. The senior said that playing with the lead like Manoogian explained isn’t new to this team.

“We have always really dealt with that. We so much better when we play against hard teams … we just play that much better when we have a lead,” she said.

No matter how it happened, the win over Desert Ridge (10-7-1) propelled Desert Vista (16-5-1) into the next round, where the Thunder play at third-seeded Chandler Hamilton at 2 p.m. Saturday.

The two teams are rather familiar opponents at this stage in the season, having faced each other Jan. 26 – a 5-4 Hamilton victory.

Morrison said playing so recently allows the Thunder to pinpoint exactly what Husky strengths to focus on heading into Saturday’s matchup.

“They’re players are just really strong. That’s what we struggled with. They won every header, everything,” she said.

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