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Sidewinders' playoff run ends in semis
GILBERT — In most sports, a single game can be referred to as a game of inches. That sentiment rang true Thursday as both teams pounded multiple shots off crossbars and goal posts, but Desert Vista was able to convert in the second half leading to a 3-1 win over San Luis in the AIA Division I state playoff semifinals.
Despite being smaller than Desert Vista at nearly every position, San Luis played toe-to-toe right up until the end.
After San Luis gave up an early goal to Nicholas Mangialardi in the 13th minute, Sidewinder forward Leo Moreno evened the score up at 1-1.
In a mad chase for the ball inside the goalie box, Moreno let off a shot that was saved. Moreno's momentum took him past the goalie and when he turned around and noticed the ball hadn't been picked up, he dashed back to the ball and put it in the net.
“Once we recovered, the last 20 minutes of the first half I felt like we were dominant,” said San Luis coach Ian McDougall.
Unfortunately for San Luis, two key injuries including starting goal keeper Jorge Gutierrez took the wind out of the Sidewinder sails.
“That definitely changed the way we played in the second half,” McDougall said. “It was really tough to come back from that emotionally and on the soccer field as well to get the focus back.”
Nicholas Mangialardi scored another goal for Desert Vista on a no-look, backwards heel kick and Danny Gavin put the game out of reach to make it 3-1.
Gavin came into the game as Desert Vista's leading scorer, but despite his one goal, San Luis didn't allow him to do much during the course of the game.
“I think early on in the game my guys were like wolverines,” McDougall said. “He was bigger than any guy on my team. He was going to win every physical battle. I just told my guys to put a body on him. Don't be dirty, just be tenacious, be on his ankles the whole game. He was a ticked-off guy most of the game, not because my guys were doing anything dirty, but he wanted to play a certain style of game and we did not let him. For 80 minutes, we were basically making his life miserable.”
Gavin was visibly frustrated, getting in multiple shouting matches with the officials.
“He was whining about everything,” said sophomore midfielder Marlon Atondo. “We were just kicking the ball out of him. We just didn't let him control the ball, turn around or anything.”
Despite the 3-1 score and disappointing loss, McDougall really couldn't complain about anything after the game.
“My guys have nothing to hang their heads about,” he said. “They played their butts off tonight as they did the whole state tournament. We just ran into some poor luck and injuries and in life that happens. It's all about regrouping for next year.”
San Luis is losing only eight seniors heading into next year and will be returning 12 juniors and sophomores. Even the departing seniors are excited for the team's future.
“I'm going to be watching them,” Moreno said. “They're my friends and I want to hang out with them. I think they're going to be better next year.”
After almost deciding not to come back to coach soccer this year, McDougall doesn't really think he has a choice with this team.
“I look at this team and we're losing some phenomenal seniors. I mean, we're really going to miss Antonio Carrion in the back and Leo and Raul on the attack. But we have such a great crop of sophomores coming up that I'm not worried.
“It's one of the beautiful things about San Luis. We grow soccer players. That's what we do.”