In order to knock off a top-ranked team the opposition has to make the favorite uncomfortable and put the early pressure on them by making a statement.
The ninth-seeded Desert Vista boys soccer team did exactly that on Saturday but in the end the Thunder couldn’t outlast the No. 1 seeded Hamilton Huskies as the Thunder fell 6-4 in penalty kicks in the second round of the Division I state playoffs.
The Thunder (13-9-1) managed to score quickly, scoring their first goal from senior forward Nicholas Mangialardi in just under four minutes.
It wouldn’t last long.
Hamilton (22-1) would retaliate four minutes later with 31:56 left to play in the first half when senior midfielder Tyler Pattell dished to senior forward Gabriel Para-Munoz, who was able to find the back of the net.
With the score tied, the Huskies would control the rest of the action in the first half, particularly dominating in the midfield and not allowing Desert Vista to get the ball into the attacking third.
But being aggressive wasn’t necessarily the Thunder’s plan.
“Our game plan was just to limit the number of chances (Hamilton) would get. To do that we just didn’t want to get pulled apart,” Desert Vista head coach Mike Rabasca said. “We purposefully kept things tight and within our control.
“When we did open up a little bit I thought we had some good opportunities but you just can’t play that way for 80 minutes, or in this case 100 minutes against a great team like this and result in a win.”
Desert Vista tried to keep things close, but senior goalkeeper Timothy O’Brien was peppered with 18 Hamilton shots.
But despite the volume of shots from the Huskies, at the end of regulation, the score was still tied 1-1. After 20 minutes of overtime, the fate of Desert Vista’s season would come down to penalty kicks.
Senior midfielder Lorenz Delaney would be the first Thunder player to take his penalty kick but Hamilton senior goalkeeper Damian Klymko made a great diving save to stuff Delaney.
The next three Desert Vista shot takers: senior midfielder Derek Gardiola, Magnialardi and senior forward Jonathan Cohen, would make their penalty kicks but Klymko’s save on the opening penalty kick would be the deciding factor.
The Huskies would bury all five of their penalty kicks to seal the 6-4 win.
For the 12 seniors on the Thunder roster, the season may have come to an end sooner than they would have liked but overall O’Brien was content with the way things shaped out.
“Couldn’t ask for a better senior year,” said O’Brien, who helped the Thunder to a state title appearance last season. “It didn’t end how we wanted it to, but I liked it and we overcame a lot of adversity…I’m proud of how the season went.”
Rabasca had the same sentiment.
“Losing this way is not terribly bad, it’s not terribly demoralizing,” added Rabasca. “I think it’s a good way for these guys to finish out.”
Smith is a journalism major at Arizona State.