RIO RANCHO – Like the great NFL running back Barry Sanders told younger running backs after they scored a touchdown, “Act like you’ve been there (in the end zone) before.”
Such is the case for the Cleveland High School girls’ soccer team, which played in the Class 5A championship game last November and seems poised to make another run deep into the postseason.
After the Storm posted their fifth shutout of the season at Rio Rancho Stadium the evening of Sept. 27, they improved their record after a baker’s dozen games to 12-1.
Yeah, been there, done that: The Storm also had 12 wins after 13 games in the 2013, ’16, ’17 and ’22 seasons – five times in head coach Greg Rusk’s dozen seasons on the sideline.
“Our team’s playing real nice soccer at the moment,” Rusk said. “We are attacking different ways, our defense is just lights-out at the moment, stopping the other team and it’s basically three defenders that hold the other team long enough to get the midfielders there to help out.
“Rylie (Pengelly) has really upped her game – she’s already a good player and she has really upped her game to be one of the finest center-defenders in the state,” he added.
Of course, with the Storm’s offense controlling the ball and thus most of the clock, the opponent doesn’t get that many scoring opportunities.
“Our fitness level is at a magnificent place,” he said. “There are some niggling injuries.”
Storm 5, Rams 0: Taylor Williamson scored midway in the first half for the only goal her team would need, and Elle Lent-Koop scored a few minutes before halftime for a 2-0 lead.
Arissa C’de Baca rook over in the second half, notching a hat trick.
CHS goalkeeper Madison Johnson was helped again by the Storm’s defense, making only one save on as many shots on goal by the Rams. Rams goalie Isabella Ferdinand had her hands full, as the Storm took 19 shots on goal, with six corner kicks.
This week, including Saturday’s game at Santa Fe, with Rusk terming it “the week from hell,” the Storm will be at Cibola Wednesday and then at Volcano Vista Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Rams are at Volcano Vista Saturday at 11 a.m., then have one game next week, hosting Cibola Oct. 6 at 6 p.m.
Storm boys make halftime lead stand up
On the other side of Northern Blvd., also starting at 6 p.m., the Cleveland boys were hosting Rio Rancho, which advanced to the APS Metro championship game after outlasting the Storm in a shootout, following the teams’ 1-1 deadlock after 100 minutes.
Senior Emmanuel Ruiz scored twice in the first half, including shortly before halftime, for that 2-0 lead coach Shaun Gill is wary off, and actually despises.
But this time, his team didn’t give away its lead and held on to beat the Rams, who got their goal from senior midfielder Douglas Cutshall.
“The game was a tale of two halves,” RRHS coach John Shepard said. “They owned the first; we played much better in the second.
“We gave up two easy goals and couldn’t quite dig ourselves out of that hole,” he added. “Season-wise, we are doing OK – (we are) inconsistent and have yet to put together a whole game at our best level. But we are trying to improve every day, and our leaders are really learning how to lead.”
On Saturday morning at 9 at the APS soccer complex, Cleveland meets Atrisco Heritage Academy. CHS is home next Wednesday, Oct. 4, to face Cibola, then home Saturday, the seventh, at 11 a.m. to meet Volcano Vista.
Next week, Cleveland heads to Rio Rancho Oct. 14 to meet the Rams at 4 p.m.
The Rams have one game next week: They’re at Cibola Saturday, Oct. 7, morning at 11.
Then, before their game with the visiting Storm, the Rams get a visit from Atrisco Heritage Academy on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 6 p.m.