It’s pretty clear last season is going to be hard to duplicate.
At least from a Desert Vista perspective as the Thunder had both the boys and girls soccer teams advance to the Division I state championship game in the same years.
Of course winning a championship for one or the other would be more fulfilling, but the chances of getting both programs, considering the amount of the talent each lost due to graduation, back for another state title doubleheader on Feb. 15 at Campo Verde will be difficult.
But don’t put it past two of the state’s top programs.
The Thunder girls, who went 24-3 last season including a difficult 1-0 loss to Xavier in the title game, have the talent to be a top contender.
It starts with junior goalie Alexa Ryder, who was the final piece to a defense that allowed just 13 goals all season, and sophomore forward Tatum Heeres, who had at least 16 goals and eight assists as a freshman, but the firepower doesn’t end there.
Junior Hannah Gavin had 10 goals a year ago and Nicole Gefrides found the back of the net seven times.
Other competitors expected Lauren Owens, Rachel Matieu, but the biggest thing going for the Thunder, directed by Marvin Hypolite, just might be that loss to Xavier.
“This is going to make us stronger,” Ryder said after last year’s loss in the title game. “We were so close, but we didn’t finish the job.”
The Thunder boys, who went 24-5 and lost 2-0 to Brophy in the finals, were driven by the senior class a year ago, but Desert Vista has plenty of talent returning and coach Mike Rabasca always seems to get the most out of it.
Desert Vista will again be led by a strong senior class of 12 contributors.
“They have the experience of being there,” Rabasca said. “We hope to make the playoffs.”
Rabasca, who has a 189-85-2 record since starting the program in 1998, has been known to downplay his team, but it is going to be hard to keep Desert Vista out of the contender conversation.
Senior Nick Mangialardi (13 goals, 3 assists) and junior Tate Schmitt (12 goals, 2 assists) will control the offensive end, while Mark Munoz, Andrew Sweeney and Cameron Rabasca should also be counted on.
The defense will have be rebuilt a bit, but with senior goalie Tim O’Brien as the anchor it will be strong once again.
The Mountain Pointe programs will be more of an unknown as the Pride girls (7-7-1) and boys (4-8) are both coming off disappointing seasons.
The Pride boys, led again by Bryan Sabato, who has 123 career wins, have a strong contingent back in the fold.
Senior midfielder Danny Meyer, senior midfielder Riley Biederbeck, senior goalie Victor Cogco, sophomore defender Brandon Johnson and sophomore midfielder Damian Toulouse should be the core of the squad.
The Pride girls have missed the postseason the last two seasons after making the quarterfinals in the 2010-11 season.
To get back to that level, Mountain Pointe will need players like seniors Ashley Mutchek and Clare Wilmink to progress to the next level.
The Horizon Honors boys looks to make a return trip to the postseason for a third straight year with the help of senior defender Connor Pendleton and senior goalie Nikolai Powell.
The girls will be led by four starter and captain Samantha Grayson, while junior captain Sierra Volker (midfield), sophomore Leah Skromme (midfield /defender) and freshman Karolina Grgurovic (midfield/defender) will be stronger influences as well.
“Horizon will be more athletic and have better soccer technicians, this combined with a robust, relentless spirit,” coach Patrick Andrew said. “It’s a consistent trait of all Horizon soccer players that will guarantee future success.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.