San­dia out­lasts La Cueva, wins on PKs

Mata­dors “beat the team we al­ways want to beat” for first ti­tle since 2008

Albuquerque Journal - - SPORTS - BY JAMES YODICE JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA PUE­BLO — Win­ning a state cham­pi­onship was a mag­nif­i­cent mo­ment for the San­dia High School girls soc­cer team on Fri­day af­ter­noon.

Win­ning it at the ex­pense of La Cueva — with an in­terim coach at the helm, to boot? The Mata­dors un­der­stand­ably were thrilled about that as well.

“That’s the team we al­ways want to beat,” San­dia se­nior Han­nah Gal­le­gos said. “And we did it when it mat­tered.”

Af­ter 120 gru­el­ing min­utes of reg­u­la­tion and four over­times, the sec­ond-seeded Mata­dors (17-4) were the calmer, sharper team in penalty kicks, outscor­ing the eighth-seeded Bears 4-2 in the shootout as San­dia won the Class 5A ti­tle, its first cham­pi­onship in this sport since 2008.

The game was 1-1 through the four OTs, with Lind­sey Eli­son’s first-half goal for San­dia off­set by Han­nah Duffy’s 72nd-minute goal for La Cueva.

In PKs, San­dia sopho­more goal­keeper Charlee Wim­berly made a save in the first round. All four Mata­dors shoot­ers found the net, and they clinched when La Cueva’s fourth shooter fired a shot over the cross­bar.

“You know, the nice thing is, we’ve been work­ing hard on our PKs over the last three weeks,” said San­dia’s in­terim head coach, Jay Sher­aden, “know­ing that there was a pos­si­bil­ity it could come down to that.”

Penalty kicks only come into play for teams in New Mex­ico in tour­na­ments. They are not used in reg­u­lar-sea­son games. This was the first shootout of the year for ei­ther team. And this show­down be­tween for­mer dis­trict ri­vals lasted nearly three hours, with clearly heavy legs — “jello,” was how one San­dia player de­scribed hers — on both sides into the third and fourth of the 10-minute OT ses­sions.

The two had drawn quite a large gath­er­ing at the com­plex on the Santa Ana Pue­blo by the time they reached PKs.

San­dia’s four shoot­ers — Kaitlin Mack, Syd­ney Groth, Gal­le­gos and Carena Har­ri­son — scored in penal­ties. La Cueva goal­keeper Emma Moore did get a piece of Groth’s at­tempt, but not enough to de­flect it away.

“We’re so be­yond ex­cited,” said Gal­le­gos.

“Ev­ery­one al­ways be­lieves La Cueva was the No. 1 team, and that no one could beat them, but we did it,” said Groth.

Eli­son’s goal came in the 29th minute. Har­ri­son — who nearly com­bined with Groth for a goal only mo­ments ear­lier, with Groth’s header sail­ing a foot or so over the cross­bar — took a cor­ner from the far side, and it rat­tled around in the box mo­men­tar­ily be­fore ric­o­chet­ing out to Eli­son. From there, she put it home, just in­side the right post, from about 20 yards out.

Many of the play­ers looked ex­hausted af­ter it was over, in­clud­ing Eli­son.

“I think for us, we knew we had put so much ef­fort into the sea­son,” Eli­son said. “None of us were gonna let up.”

La Cueva (18-3-1) had beaten San­dia in last year’s 6A state quar­ter­fi­nals. The Bears, who won state a year ago, also whipped the Mata­dors 4-1 dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Sher­aden be­came this team’s coach only three days be­fore the sea­son opener. But he led San­dia to a dis­trict cham­pi­onship and a No. 2 seed.

“I’m just in­cred­i­bly proud of th­ese girls,” he said. “I love them like they’re my own daugh­ters.”

GREG SORBER/JOUR­NAL

San­dia goal­keeper Charlee Wim­berly (in red) em­braces San­dia team­mates (from left) Sapi­rah Brous­sard, Han­nah Gal­le­gos and Kaitlin Mack af­ter the Mata­dors won the shootout and beat La Cueva.

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