The realization that 6 a.m. was considered the start of the soccer day was greeted with awkward glances, probably a couple of groans, and definitely some resentment by the girls on the Desert Vista soccer team.

New coach Marvin Hypolite brought in some new ideas about discipline and conditioning.

It didn't exactly go over too well.

"Marvin is motivated," junior forward Rachel Ressler said. "Those morning practices are working out for us, but we are still kind of (against it). Who likes to run?

"It took a while to get used to, but the way we are playing shows it has worked out for us."

The Thunder entered the week 8-0 after winning the Tempe Diablos Soccer Classic last Friday at Tempe Sports Complex by closing out the event with a 3-1 win over Corona del Sol.

The Aztecs scored first, but the Thunder answered within 30 seconds on Kelly Watson's first of two in the win.

"That first goal we gave up (all season), and then coming back with one was important," Hypolite said. "It was a counter punch and sent a message."

As Hypolite said, that was the first goal the team allowed all year and he believes one of the reasons for the great start was because of the early-morning workouts.

"The girls are understanding the system and understanding the roles," he said. "I can sub in and out and there is no let down because there is discipline. There is no question. I am so proud of them for staying as a unit, and it showed."

Goalies for the Thunder are senior McKenzie Meegan and junior Nicole Kagasoff, in addition to having three captains in front of the goal in senior Jackie Janssen, junior Alison Richardson and junior Hannah Stevens.

The great start by the defense has allowed the offense to play free and easy, knowing all it is going to take is one goal to get the victory.

"Our defense is really solid this year," said Watson, a midfielder who also added a score on a penalty kick against Corona. "It takes a little pressure off. We don't let up when we do score, but we do know if we do get a score or two the defense is going to do its job."

Corona coach Matt Smith said the Thunder doesn't look much different than in previous years under Paul Manoogian, who led the team to two semifinal appearances and two state runners-up finishes in five seasons.

"Desert Vista is always going to have talent," he said. "I always look at the junior classes (of teams) because they are playing without worrying about others things (scholarships, graduation) and they have a very good junior class.

"Some coaches might say the style has changed, but I see the same top four team they are every year."

Hypolite has been pleased with the transition, and he places a lot of the success on the players.

"It was kind of like do or die," he said. "They've been good in the past, but were they ready to be the best? The girls basically stepped up and, so far, they have shown they understand and can stay disciplined."

That, and being ready to run at 6 a.m.

"We are more disciplined and he doesn't let us slack off," Watson said. "It was a little different and we were like, ‘What the heck?' But it is paying off. We want to win state and I think we can really do it."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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