The girls from the Cibola High soccer team were holding their giant prize Friday night, and twirling it around, looking for the name of their school.
It wasn’t there. But it will be engraved very soon.
La Cueva’s boys, meanwhile, didn’t have to look long to find theirs.
The Cougars and La Cueva emerged from the Albuquerque Metro Championships at the APS Complex with titles — Cibola having beaten Albuquerque Academy 2-0, and the Bears having staged a dramatic and vastly enjoyable 2-1 overtime win over Cleveland.
Senior defender Tyler Erickson recorded the game-tying goal in the 76th minute, then scored on a brilliant blast from 25 yards out seven minutes into the first OT as La Cueva (5-0) successfully defended its metro crown against the Storm (6-1).
The game-winner was spectacular, as he fired over the head of Storm goalkeeper Ryan Watson and into the top, far corner.
“I took a look at the goal, and I noticed I had open space,” said Erickson. “I took the shot and it went in.”
“It was a great shot,” Storm coach Shaun Gill said.
“An incredible shot,” La Cueva coach Easy Jimenez said. “A great finish.”
Cleveland junior Gabriel Legendre, in the 28th minute, gathered a tremendous through ball from his brother Nicholas and went in unchallenged on La Cueva goalkeeper Forrest Gill-Ehlen. It was an easy finish from there for Legendre, who has 11 goals already this season.
With 10 minutes left in regulation, Jimenez began to bring Gill-Ehlen forward on free kicks, freeing up an extra attacker near the box.
Eventually, La Cueva’s pressure paid off, with Erickson collecting a free kick, and volleying it home from the top of the six to tie the game.
“After I scored that first goal, we knew we had the momentum,” Erickson said. “We had to show them who La Cueva is.”
The pla y of Watson in goal for Cleveland was excellent; he made one point-blank save late in regulation that forced overtime, and he made another terrific deflection just moments before Erickson ended the game.
Four of La Cueva’s five victories in this tournament were by one goal.
“We played another great team,” Jimenez said. “It’s gonna be a good year for soccer.”
And after an earlier win this week over defending 6A state champ Albuquerque High, the Bears’ chests are puffed out.
“This gives the team a tremendous amount of confidence,” Erickson said.
The metro trophy is gargantuan — probably three or four times the size of the trophy that goes to the team that wins the state championship.
Friday marked the first time Cibola (5-0) won this tournament. Sydni Burrup, who had two goals in the Cougars’ semifinal win two days earlier against La Cueva, had a goal and an assist Friday against the Chargers (4-1). Sarah Torres had the second goal.
The question was put to Cibola coach Gary Zink: is this team, sprinkled with terrific new freshman and veterans, exceeding early expectations?
“Yeah,” he said with a smile. “It’s almost concerning to me that it’s a little too fast.”
Burrup tallied first, in the 13th minute. From a cornerkick, the ball was backed out to Burrup who finessed a shot home — in a good breeze — from about 20 yards out.
Two minutes later, Torres, off another corner, fired home an insurance goal.
“Our team has always been good,” Torres said confidently. “We want to the (state) title back.”
Cibola beat two defending state champions this week in bracket play.
Perhaps more impressively, the Cougars, after surrendering a goal to Sandia in the pool-play opener, won their next four games in this tournament by shutout.
Zink has been impressed by the technical prowess of his team, but he has been wowed by the early chemistry forged.
“They are more coachable than I anticipated,” Zink said.