The Desert Vista and Xavier girls soccer programs have a bit of postseason history.
While there might have been a bit more at stake last time – mainly a state championship – they met in the playoffs, it was still pretty intense Wednesday night.
The outcome, however, was still the same as the No. 4 Gators beat the No. 13 Thunder 6-4 via penalty kicks in the first round of the Division I state tournament.
“They played fantastic,” Desert Vista head coach Marvin Hypolite said. “They did a very good job of sticking to the game plan. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The Gators, who won the state title in 2013 with a 1-0 win over Desert Vista, dominated the first half as Xavier managed to keep the ball in the attacking third much of the time and kept Desert Vista junior goalkeeper Alexa Ryder busy for much of the night.
Ryder had to make five saves in the first half while the Thunder struggled to get shots on goal.
Desert Vista (17-7) went into the half tied with Xavier at 0-0. Hypolite attributes the lack of early offensive production to big-game jitters.
“We spoke about it at halftime. It was just nerves,” Hypolite said. “I told them at halftime ‘You know, we can’t be scared to go farther,’…we needed to keep that offensive threat up.”
The second half played out much like the first with Xavier (13-5-2) controlling the offense. Finally, with 16:17 left to play Xavier junior forward Tessa Zaccagnio found the back of the net and gave the Gators a 1-0 lead.
That’s when a switch seemed to flip for the Thunder.
Suddenly, Desert Vista managed to get the ball more effectively into the attacking third. With 10:57 remaining Desert Vista sophomore forward Erica Richardson would answer Ziccagnio’s goal with one of her own to tie the game at one apiece.
Regulation would end with the score tied and the game moved into two 10-minute overtime periods. But even after overtime there still wasn’t a winner.
The game would be decided in penalty kicks.
On Desert Vista’s first penalty kick, Xavier goalkeeper Sydnay Tucker would make a spectacular diving save and it would turn out to be the deciding factor as the Gators would bury all five of their penalty kicks to seal the win.
Only one year removed from an appearance in the state title game a first round ouster is a tough pill for the Thunder to swallow, but there is good news. Desert Vista is loaded with freshmen and sophomores that will be coming back next year and that has Hypolite excited.
“We have a young team,” Hyplolite said. “To hold the defending champions to double overtime and PKs these girls showed a lot of maturity and I couldn’t be more proud of them.
“The season outlook is very promising…even though we lost this game we have a lot to take home. A lot.”
In other DI action, No. 16 Mountain Pointe lost 3-0 to No. 1 Pinnacle to end the year at 13-9.
Smith is a journalism major at Arizona State.