Desert Vista boys soccer coach Mike Rabasca is keeping things in perspective this season. On one hand, the Thunder return eight of 11 starters from last year’s 5A state championship team.
On the other hand, however, Rabasca’s squad will be learning to produce without one of the state’s most potent 1-2 punches in Nick Auditore and Kevin Hsu.
"Of all those starters we lose two players who scored 60 goals for us last season," Rabasca said.
The Thunder, who open the season at No. 2 behind Tucson Salpointe in the Socceraz.com 5A Division I preseason poll, might be inclined to switch to a defensive philosophy on the field, with top defender Tristan Colyer and goalkeeper Collin Sculley.
The Thunder have work to do if they want to repeat as 5A champions, with Highland, Brophy and Mountain Pointe expected to also compete with Salpointe for the crown.
But Rabasca said neither he nor anyone on his team is satisfied and ready to roll over after winning it all last season.
"I think that any time you start a season, one of your goals is to get into a championship game," Rabasca said. "From that standpoint, whether or not we won the state championship last year, our goal this year would be to compete for a state championship."
TOP 5 PLAYERS
Dominic Papa, Hamilton: Also a kicker for the two-time defending state champion Huskies football team, the senior forward notched 21 goals and seven assists as a junior.
Tristan Colyer, Desert Vista: The senior returns as arguably 5A’s best defender and will try to lead the Thunder to back-to-back crowns.
Spencer Thompson, Mountain Pointe: Junior forward netted 20 goals last season in leading the Pride to a state semifinal appearance.
Mike Petello, Saguaro: Senior defender led the Sabercats to a 13-0-1 record to close out the regular season after shifting from forward midway through his junior year.
Chad Varga, Saguaro: Senior team captain scored 13 goals while assisting on four others in leading the Sabercats to a 4A playoff berth as the East Sky Region’s top seed.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
Eric Lespron, Cactus Shadows, Sr., MF; Max Despins, Desert Mountain, Sr., D; Jeremy Botlinger, Dobson, Sr., MF; Lalo Alba, Coronado, Jr., MF; Kevin Ferrat, Desert Ridge, Jr., D; Joey Gerber, Notre Dame Prep, Sr., GK; Will Ramsey, Basha, Sr., D; Juan Mendez, Horizon, Sr., F; Alex Lowel, Desert Mountain, Sr., F; Travis Knight, Highland, Sr., D; Scott Mason, Horizon, Sr., F; Adrian Villalba, Basha, Sr., MF; Adam Wilbanks, Mountain View, Sr., D; Daniel Lee, Notre Dame Prep, Sr., MF; Gilberto Camacho, Westwood, Sr., GK
5A DIVISION I
1. Salpointe 2. Desert Vista 3. Highland 4. Brophy 5. Mountain Pointe
5A DIVISION II
1. Ironwood 2. San Luis 3. Mountain View (Marana) 4. Desert Mountain 5. Centennial
4A DIVISION I
1. Sabino 2. Cactus 3. Catalina Foothills 4. Prescott 5. Moon Valley
4A DIVISION II
1. Cactus Shadows 2. Bradshaw Mountain 3. Mohave 4. Glendale 5. Coronado
Tuesday: Opening day of 2005-06 season for 5A and 4A schools
Dec. 26-31:Mustang Invitational, hosted by Dobson, annually pits the best boys and girls teams from around the state against each other.
Jan. 23-28: Region tournaments
Jan. 30-Feb. 11: State tournaments
DID YOU KNOW?
Double dip: Twice in the last three years the same school has won both the boys and girls 5A state championships in the same seasons. Desert Vista turned the trick last season after Horizon won both 5A titles in 2003.
E.V./Scottsdale shutout: An East Valley or Scottsdale school has never won an outright 4A boys title. Chaparral shared the 1998 crown with Tucson Rincon after the schools tied 1-1 in the championship round.
One is enough: Desert Vista, backstopped by goaltender Collin Sculley and defender Tristan Colyar, didn’t allow a single goal in five 5A state tournament matches last season, outscoring opponents 19-0 en route to the title.
Score settled: Gilbert and Tucson Salpointe have met in the 5A playoffs in each of the past two seasons. The teams squared off in the 2004 state championship game, only to tie for the title after neither team could score a "golden goal" in overtime. The Tigers finished business a full year later, knocking off the Lancers 2-0 to reach the state semifinals.