Mule kick

Nicholas Mangialardi, #17 of Desert Vista, scores a goal during the semi-finals soccer game between Desert Vista and San Luis at Campo Verde High School on Thursday, Feb 7, 2013.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

Highly intense and vociferous on the field, Desert Vista boys soccer coach Mike Rabasca needed a moment to choose his words afterward.

The Thunder continued their steady defense and opportunistic offense exhibitions through nearly all of this soccer season.

From regular season and now postseason, the No. 3 seeded-Thunder did everything necessary once more in a 3-1 victory against No. 10 San Luis in the Division I semifinal match on Thursday to thrust themselves into a state championship showdown with Brophy on Saturday.

It's the first return trip to the finals since 2008, and D.V. - which stayed after its win to watch most of Brophy's overtime victory over Tolleson - has one left to win, a 6 p.m. match at Campo Verde H.S.

Though frustrated by some of his team's second-half play and a few shots which hit crossbars and goal posts (a different kind of frustration), Rabasca found the bigger picture to be satisfying, at least for the moment after his team broke a tie with two goals after halftime.

"I think the word to use right now is 'peaking,'" he said.

The two teams combined to unofficially hit either the crossbar or goal posts seven times. Desert Vista started fast with a good scoring opportunity in the first six minutes, then Danny Gavin was the first to hit the crossbar a few minutes later.

His fellow forward, Nicholas Mangialardi, temporarily put a halt to the clanging with a header in front of the net which found the corner of the net after a corner kick by Derek Gardiola, and it was 1-0 D.V. with 26 minutes left in the first half.

San Luis' Leonardo Moreno tied the match with 16 minutes left in the first half after his shot came because of a deflection created when D.V. goalie Tim O'Brien made an excellent sliding save, and it was 1-1 at intermission.

"I think some felt a feeling we're in trouble, but we had a lot more things going for us," Rabasca, who hasn't allowed his players to talk all season long, said of halftime. "We reminded them that we are getting shots (well enough) to be hitting the post and get them to focus and things were going the right way."

Thankfully for the Thunder, Mangialardi wasn't done as he scored his seventh postseason goal. Just 90 seconds into the second half, a terrific passing sequence between Gavin and Michael Abernathy at the endline led to a centering pass to Mangialardi and a 2-1 D.V. lead.

San Luis goaltender Jorge Gutierrez suffered a shoulder injury on the play and left the match for good. Gavin sealed the match when he one-timed a feed from Mangialardi following a San Luis turnover of possession.

"We had some good attacking output and he was a beneficiary of those," Rabasca said of Mangialardi. "...I feel somewhat comfortable with us when we have three goals."

San Luis, however, didn't go quietly. They found a couple creases in the Thunder defense in the second half, but were stopped by the crossbar or post a couple times.

That led to some Rabasaca displeasure, along with a desire to see better ball and decision-making given the lead in the final 20 minutes.

Then again, some - or all - of those will be long forgotten with a win in the final match of the season Saturday.

Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at or (480) 898-6576.

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