Marc Kelly isn’t worried or stressed, and that’s a surprise to him.
Not because the Phoenix Brophy coach thinks his boys soccer team will have an easy time against Phoenix Desert Vista in tonight’s 5A Division I state championship match. On the contrary, he saw how good the Mike Rabasca-coached Thunder are in earlier in the season.
In fact, Kelly wasn’t sure why he was calm, cool and collected. The Broncos haven’t been to a championship game since 1997, while the Thunder have been final four participants most of this decade, and won titles in 2002, 2005 and 2006.
But he is, and while the fifth-seeded Broncos have recorded 10 consecutive wins entering tonight’s finale, last year’s unexpected loss to Chandler Basha in the quarterfinals still hurts.
“I’ve learned the hard way getting to the final is very difficult, especially in this day and age where everyone has good players,” Kelly said. “You’ve got to have the right breaks at the right time.”
The Broncos are led by Temi Molinar (who will play at Duke next year), Nick Ayers and Xavier-bound Jimmy Meglio, and it took awhile for the team to find its way while new players adjusted to high school soccer instead of the club teams they played on last year.
Speaking of adjustments, the Thunder went through plenty. Only two players remain from the 2006 championship team.
“I don’t care if you’ve been here before or not,” Rabasca said. “They’re high school kids. ... For the past month we’ve played in meaningful games. That’s important. You win them or you don’t and we’ve been under that strain and pressure a little.”
The girls side has been equally unpredictable.
Fifth-seeded Gilbert will make its first state championship match appearance, while Phoenix Mountain Pointe, an 11th seed, knocked off three higher seeds to get here.