It was not the goal that won the game for the Volcano Vista Hawks, but it was, in hindsight, the most important goal.
With Rio Rancho having drawn first blood, five minutes into the second half, Volcano Vista senior Skylor Rose lined up a free kick from 35 yards away.
His brilliant strike was the equalizer, and came just three minutes after the game’s opening goal.
It snatched momentum from the 10th-seeded Rams (12-7-2), transferred it to the Hawks, and No. 7 seed Volcano Vista went on to a 4-1 home victory Friday afternoon in the first round of the boys Class 5A state soccer tournament.
“I would agree with that,” Rams coach John Shepard said of the impact of Rose’s dramatic goal. “Getting that quick answer changed the momentum in their favor.”
Rose produced two second-half goals, neither of them that could be defined as the official game-winner, but it was his free kick goal that clearly lingered in the aftermath.
“Unsaveable,” Shepard said of Rose’s shot.
“A senior stepped up,” Volcano Vista coach Billy Thiebaut said. “He wants to be the superstar, and he was the superstar today.”
Rose said he scored a similar goal earlier in the year.
“When I start thinking, I get into my head,” he said. “Then I don’t know if I can make it.”
Volcano Vista (13-5-1) advances to Wednesday’s quarterfinals at the complex on the Santa Ana Pueblo, where it will face No. 2 seed Hobbs.
The Hawks dominated most of the final 35 minutes of the second half Friday to advance. And this was in stark contrast to the first time Rio Rancho visited Volcano Vista, in late September, a game the Rams won 5-2.
“We came in that game thinking we were going to run through them,” said senior midfielder/forward Isai Rivas, who did author the game-winner for Volcano Vista. “This time, we weren’t gonna leave without a close game or a win.”
Mason Cole’s high, left-footed center to Rivas, in the box about eight yards from Rio Rancho goalkeeper Bryson Baker, allowed Rivas to head home the go-ahead goal in the 55th minute.
“That one was so spot-on,” Rivas said. “And I was able to get my head on it.”
Cole also had the helper on the next goal, in the 64th minute and scored by Rose, who described the play this way: “He put it in my mouth, and I just had to bite it.”