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