This particular grassy knoll had nothing to do with conspiracy and everything to do with championships.
The soccer fields at Tempe Sports Complex are separated by an elevated area that turned into a perfect perch on Friday for the Desert Vista soccer community as both teams played — and won — Bill Vanney/Tempe Diablos Soccer Classic Championships.
As both teams had fans and parents watching both games play out in front of them. Each break in action meant the Desert Vista crowd could just pivot 180 degrees and watch the other team play for the title.
“They were yelling and pulling for us,” Thunder senior forward Rachel Ressler said. “It pumped us up and made us want to play even harder for our team, our school, our coach, and our community.”
The boys came away with a 1-0 win over defending state champion Hamilton in a physical, yellow- and red- card-filled match, while the girls defeated defending state champion Highland 2-1 in a fast-paced, technical match.
Josh Greene, Kelly Watson and Ressler scored goals for the Thunder and the assists might as well go to the Desert Vista community that was moaning and groaning with every play.
“It was fantastic wasn’t,” Desert Vista boys coach Mike Rabasca said. “With both fields going and our little DV zone over here. In terms of having an extra player we probably felt a little bit of that. It was nice that it happened and it was great.”
The boys team entered the week at 7-1 and doing a great job of staying disciplined, playing within their defined role and continue buying into Rabasca’s system.
“It’s early in the season and we are about where we should be in development at this point in the season,” Rabasca said. “We have been concentrating on set pieces and I am really pleased they followed that game plan and it paid off with a goal. It was a good moment for them.”
Again Hamilton, the players did a good job of staying focused despite the chippiness that developed in the second half that led to a couple of yellow cards for the Thunder and at least one red card for Hamilton.
Instead of letting it disrupt the task at hand, Desert Vista did a good job focusing on getting the win.
“They are going to be who they want to be,” Rabasca said. “It is up to us to react properly and professionally. There was a lot of emotion. For what the game was it was appropriate and we did a good job of being the better professional, if you will.”
The Thunder girls didn’t have to deal with that type of game, but had to overcome a possible oversight by the referee as Highland’s lone goal, which tied it at 1, came on a throw in by Jaden DeGracie that didn’t appear to touch anyone although it was ruled to have deflected off a Thunder player.
“I’m a defensive freak,” Desert Vista coach Marvin Hypolite said. “That goal will stay with me. They had to work hard for it.”
The Thunder (7-1) answered when Kelly Watson found the back of the net with about 10 minutes left in the second half.
Desert Vista’s lone defeat was actually a win but had to be forfeited because Watson played in the season opener after being ejected from last season’s quarterfinal defeat. She was supposed to sit out, but it all was forgotten — expect for an opposing coach turned them in to the AIA — and she played.
It hasn’t taken away from what the Thunder has accomplished this season and probably fueled their desire to take the program to the next level this season.
“We are trying to make it to the top,” Ressler said. “This (win over last year’s state champ) puts us one step closer.”
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