Mis­sion com­plete as Sun­dev­ils win state crown

Albuquerque Journal - - HIGH SCHOOLS - BY TRIS­TEN CRITCHFIELD

SANTA ANA PUE­BLO — Its play­ers might have brushed off the no­tion of re­venge, but judg­ing by the game’s open­ing mo­ments, top-seeded San­dia Prep was clearly a team on a mis­sion in its Class 1A-3A boys cham­pi­onship matchup against No. 2 Robert­son.

The Sun­dev­ils (15-8) struck for two goals within the first seven min­utes and con­trolled the ac­tion the rest of the way in a 3-0 vic­tory over the Car­di­nals (15-6) at the Soc­cer Com­plex on Fri­day. Not only did the vic­tory avenge a loss to the last team to beat them dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, but it gave San­dia Prep its first blue tro­phy in five years.

“When we played them (on Oct. 13) we were miss­ing a cou­ple guys, and we played a com­pletely dif­fer­ent for­ma­tion. I ac­tu­ally changed the lineup af­ter that game,” Sun­dev­ils coach Tommy Smith said. “We didn’t lose a game af­ter that.

“It was easy to mo­ti­vate my guys with that game, be­ing that they had beaten us.”

San­dia Prep’s speed and ag­gres­sion was the dif­fer­ence, as it was able to cap­i­tal­ize on a pair of break­aways in the early go­ing. Se­nior mid­fielder Brian Al­tavas got the Sun­dev­ils on the board with a goal in the fifth minute.

“I just knew that if we started fast and strong, we’d get one even­tu­ally,” Al­tavas said. “Non-stop just keep go­ing and just work­ing. That’s what we did.”

The Sun­dev­ils cheer­ing sec­tion had barely fin­ished cel­e­brat­ing Al­tavas’ score when Lu­cas Sandoval broke through for an­other goal just two min­utes later. Adding to the dra­mat­ics, the se­nior for­ward fell to the turf af­ter be­com­ing en­tan­gled with the Robert­son goal keeper as the ball rolled into the net. Sandoval stayed on the ground for a mo­ment be­fore stand­ing and turn­ing to­ward the San­dia Prep side with his arms out­stretched.

Though there were still more than 70 min­utes to play, it was ba­si­cally a for­mal­ity from there.

“Hon­estly it just felt so amaz­ing to know I got that goal and just to do it for my boys,” Sandoval said. “And just re­ally get that edge on them.”

San­dia Prep stayed on the of­fen­sive for the ma­jor­ity of the game, but to its credit, Robert­son thwarted a num­ber of scor­ing chances within its box to keep the deficit man­age­able. The Sun­dev­ils added a third goal on a beau­ti­ful set piece in the 65th minute, with Shamus O’Leary as­sist­ing Sandoval to put the game out of reach.

Ac­cor­ing to Sandoval, the thought of re­venge never oc­curred to him. “All busi­ness,” he said. None­the­less, Smith said he and his team learned from its strug­gles against the Car­di­nals in the reg­u­lar sea­son, when it was short­handed in a 1-0 de­feat. The quick start was all part of the plan.

“We wanted to come out ex­tremely hard, press them and not let them get com­fort­able. When we played them ear­lier in the sea­son we split two games with them,” Smith said. “The first time we came out hard and got two goals early. We played them up there, and we never got into a rhythm. We fig­ured with our speed up front, we could cause all kinds of prob­lems.”

ROBERTO E. ROS­ALES JOUR­NAL

San­dia Prep play­ers walk off the field af­ter they beat Robert­son Fri­day to win the 1A-3A state cham­pi­onship. It is the first ti­tle in five years for a pro­gram that is a peren­nial con­tender in the sport.

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