San­dia Prep tops St. Michael’s to win third straight ti­tle

Albuquerque Journal - - HIGH SCHOOLS - BY TRIS­TEN CRITCHFIELD

SANTA ANA PUE­BLO — It was a fa­mil­iar achieve­ment for San­dia Prep, but the Sun­dev­ils’ cov­eted three-peat couldn’t have hap­pened with­out a lit­tle bit of new blood.

Ki­ran Hill scored on a break­away in the 50th minute to give top-seeded San­dia Prep a 1-0 vic­tory against No. 6 St. Michael’s in the girls Class 1A-3A cham­pi­onship game at the Soc­cer Com­plex on Fri­day. The Sun­dev­ils (16-4-2) have won three con­sec­u­tive blue tro­phies, but this was the first un­der the guid­ance of coach Matt Wester­lund.

“There was this ex­pec­ta­tion in my mind … that this is what we do at Prep. Soc­cer is our thing,” Wester­lund said. “It’s some­thing that in my mind, that was the only goal for us at the end of the sea­son. I’m so glad that I have that.”

It was also a new ex­pe­ri­ence for Hill, an eighth-grader who spent the af­ter­math of the vic­tory breath­lessly tran­si­tion­ing from grant­ing in­ter­views to ac­cept­ing con­grat­u­la­tions. It was a lot to take in for some­one who this sea­son was of­ten the youngest player on the field.

“It’s all rac­ing,” Hill said. “I’m re­ally ex­cited since it’s my first year in high school. I worked re­ally hard for this op­por­tu­nity and I fin­ished it.”

Hill was given her op­por­tu­nity by one of the team’s vet­er­ans, se­nior Alexan­dria For­rester, who set up Hill with a break­away against the St. Michael’s back line. From there, Hill eluded one fi­nal Lady Horse­man de­fender be­fore fir­ing the ball past Milena Keene and into the right cor­ner of the net.

“Alex For­rester, she played the per­fect ball in,” Hill said. “All I had to do was beat one de­fender then shoot it. It all just hap­pened from one per­son mak­ing a chance for me to score.”

Wester­lund has been im­pressed with Hill’s met­tle all sea­son. The coach told his pre­co­cious Sun­devil be­fore the game that while she wouldn’t start on Fri­day, she would have her chance to con­trib­ute. That turned out to be more than pre­scient.

“She’s some­one that doesn’t pull out of any chal­lenges. She doesn’t fear the mo­ment,” Wester­lund said. “It’s an op­por­tu­nity that doesn’t come along of­ten, be­ing in a state fi­nal, and she fully lived up to it.”

Mean­while, St. Michael’s (16-7-1) strug­gled to find con­ti­nu­ity and main­tain pos­ses­sion down the stretch. Of­ten­times, the Lady Horse­men made passes to team­mates who weren’t there. Their best scor­ing chances in the wan­ing mo­ments came via free kicks by Daisy Smith, the hero of the team’s semi­fi­nal win. But none of her shots both­ered San­dia Prep keeper Sa­man­tha Jef­fries.

“St. Mike’s is in my opin­ion the most phys­i­cal, the best team we’ve played all year. They re­ally fought to the end, but I think our or­ga­ni­za­tion in the mid­field, be­ing able to pos­sess the ball was what sep­a­rated us,” Wester­lund said.

For the San­dia Prep vet­er­ans, like se­nior Sarah Pascetti, the fa­mil­iar taste of vic­tory was just as sweet as it was for the new­com­ers.

“Three sea­sons in a row, we’ve worked so hard as team to­gether,” she said. “It’s amaz­ing.”

ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOUR­NAL

San­dia Prep’s Lind­say McDer­mott, cen­ter, holds the blue tro­phy af­ter the Sun­dev­ils de­feated St. Michael’s to win the 1A-3A state cham­pi­onship Fri­day.

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