Until the ball gets deep into Desert Vista’s defensive territory, Jana Steuber is a stealth player on the Thunder girls soccer team.
The senior doesn’t show up very much on the statistical sheet either, Desert Vista coach Paul Manoogian admits.
But that doesn’t diminish her importance on the Desert Vista team that made it to the state 5A-I championship game where the Thunder lost, 1-0, in seven rounds of a shoot-out to Phoenix Xavier last season.
“Jana is kind of an unsung player,” Manoogian explained. “First of all, she’s a fullback and nobody pays attention to fullbacks. There might be two on the all-state team, but there are a lot of forwards because of the stats.”
Steuber has been playing the game since she was 10, mostly as a defender, and isn’t in it for the glory.
“You have to stop goals” she said. “I have other positions, but I’m a lot better on defense than forward because I’ve played there for so long.”
Steuber took four shots on goal last season and had one assist.
When the Thunder made their championship run last season they did it with eight seniors, including a couple of veteran defenders.
Steuber impressed Xavier coach Barb Chura, who had coached her in club ball.
“Barb asked me why this girl wasn’t on the field every minute of every game,” Manoogian explained. “But we had Kristen (Kastic) back there and Jana was the fourth of five backs and didn’t get a lot of playing time, but she contributed.”
This year is different.
“Now this is Jana’s year,” Manoogian continued. “She’s gotten considerably better, more confident and we have more confidence in her. As an outside back she is one of the best in the state and we want her to get some recognition.”
Steuber has been on the Thunder varsity team since she was a sophomore, but only four or five of that class are on this season’s team.
“Things change,” she said. “This is a different team and you have to get to know each other, but we’re a lot closer.”
Steuber, Manoogian said, is what he and his assistants try to instill in the Thunder.
“We talk about soul and teamwork,” Manoogian said. “Jana embodies that spirit of what we want to do.”