Rio Rancho senior goalkeeper Antonio Cross-Guillen dove to his right to save this shot by an Academy Charger player Thursday afternoon, and it gave the Rams a victory in shootout fashion. (Gary Herron/Observer)
ALBUQUERQUE — Headed into Friday night’s APS Metro Soccer Championships at the APS soccer complex, the unbeaten Cleveland High girls were contesting for the Gold Bracket’s title.
The Storm (5-0-1) are slated to meet defending Class 5A champ Cibola on the Field 1 pitch at 7:15 p.m.. The Cougars edged Rio Rancho 1-0 in their Wednesday evening semifinal, shortly after the Storm beat La Cueva 5-3.
The Storm met the Cougars four times last season. That included a 1-0 loss in the Metro Gold championship game and a 1-0 loss in the state quarterfinals on the Cougars’ new turf field.
In their 1-5A meetings, Cibola won 3-2 at Cleveland and 5-0 at Cibola.
But, as Storm coach Greg Rusk and any veteran coach will tell you, this is a new season.
After spotting the Bears an early lead, the Storm scored four times before halftime, with Kiana Jamerson, Ella Lent-Koop, Rylie Pengelly and Arianna Barreras finding the back of the net.
With just less than 10 minutes of regulation time, La Cueva’s Olivia Haddock sandwiched a pair of goals around a Storm tally by Sienna Salazar.
The Rams (4-1-1) meet La Cueva in the third-place game Friday on Field 3 at 7.
The Storm girls have just one game this coming week, playing at St. Pius X Saturday afternoon at 3.
The Rams girls are home Tuesday evening at 6 to meet Capital High.
Rams boys go for Bronze title
Late in their Bronze Bracket semifinal game Thursday afternoon, the Academy Chargers deflated the Rams’ hopes with a goal to tie the game at 1, sending it into penalty kicks to determine the winner.
Hopes may have been further deflated when RRHS’s Douglas Cutshall had his shot stopped by Chargers goalkeeper Alex Saiz, and the Academy’s first player in the shootout beat Rams goalkeeper Antonio Cross-Guillen for an early advantage.
“I guess the first guy got the nerves out of everybody,” RRHS coach John Shepard said.
No problem: The next four Rams – Giancarlo Figueroa, Aaron Meserve, who tallied the Rams’ goal six minutes into the second half, Bryson Strohecker and Luc Koenig — beat Saiz, while Cross-Guillen stopped Academy’s fifth kicker to send the shootout into sudden-death, with the first team missing before or after the opponent scored, deemed the loser.
Caden Jones, Mateo Dean and CJ Sava each beat Saiz, and the first two Chargers got the ball past Cross-Guillen.
He dove to his right on the final PK, blocked the ball and sent the Rams (3-1-2) into the championship game against Sandia, which edged Valley 4-3 in the other Bronze semifinal. The Rams and Matadors square off at 4:45 p.m. Friday on Field 2.
“(That was) two really young teams; we had two seniors out there,” Shepard said. “I thought it was a really good game. Both teams played hard. There was a lot of learning going on.”
The Rams used three goalkeepers, with Emilio Mendoza and Josh Shaver seeing time between the pipes in the second half. The Chargers’ goal, an “own” goal, came against Mendoza with what Shepard said was about four minutes left in regulation.
Cross-Guillen kept the ball out of the net in the first half, and returned for the shootout.
“OK; we shouldn’t have let the ball in our box, so credit Academy for continuing to press,” he said. “We’ve got guys playing out of position because we’re short-handed, due to a bunch of different things.”
The Cleveland High boys team (3-2-1) had to settle for consolation honors in the Gold bracket, after a 2-1 loss to District 1-5A foe Volcano Vista.
Christian Dapolito, on an assist from Brayan Ramirez, tallied the Storm goal in the second half.
The Storm had another 1-5A foe awaiting them in their Friday game at 7 on Field 4: Atrisco Heritage Academy, beaten 1-0 by Albuquerque High in the other semifinal.
Last season at Metro, the Jaguars beat the Storm 2-1 in the Silver Bracket’s third-place game, and then swept the district series in a pair of 1-0 verdicts.
This coming week, the Rams boys have three games: at Capital High at 6 on Tuesday, home Thursday at 3:30 to meet Albuquerque High and Saturday at Roswell, also at 3.
The Storm boys also have three games, all at the annual Albuquerque Academy tournament, starting with a 2 p.m. game Thursday vs. Los Alamos.