SANTA ANA PUEBLO — Best two out of three for a state championship.
That’s how things have turned out for district boys soccer rivals Sandia Prep and Robertson. After splitting their two regular-season meetings, the Sundevils and Cardinals will square off again in Friday’s Class 1A-3A championship match at 3 p.m. at the soccer complex.
Top-seeded Sandia Prep advanced to its ninth state final in 11 years with a 2-0 victory over Tierra Encantada in Friday’s semifinals at the soccer complex. Second-seeded Robertson earned its first championship berth with a 3-2 comeback win over Monte del Sol.
As a result the Sundevils and Cardinals will play a rubber match that both teams say they expected.
“I actually would’ve liked to play somebody different,” Sandia Prep coach Tommy Smith said, “but it’s a chance to settle things with Robertson. They have two really dynamic players up front and a very scrappy back line. It’ll be a battle.”
Robertson’s Musah Dumbia — one of the dynamic players to whom Smith referred — tried to rein in the excitement of his team’s semifinal win.
“It’s a great feeling but we’ve still got one game left,” Dumbia said. “Sandia Prep is a great opponent for us and we have to go all out. But we’re very excited to play them for the championship, very excited.”
No. 1 SANDIA PREP 2, No. 5 TIERRA ENCANTADA 0: Shamus O’leary cashed in the go-ahead goal just before halftime and the Sundevils (14-8-0) kept their state-title pursuit alive by shutting out the Alacranes (13-3-0).
Sandia Prep is chasing its 11 state title overall but is experiencing something of a drought by Sundevil standards. They last raised a blue championship trophy in 2013.
“That is our quest and hopefully this is the year,” said O’leary, who scored three goals in Sandia Prep’s first two tournament games.
O’leary’s low crossing shot from the right wing was just beyond the reach of diving Tierra Encantada goalie Jose Pichardo and gave the Sundevils a measure of relief after they applied pressure throughout the first half.
“You always get worried when you have a lot of opportunities and don’t score,” Smith said. “Soccer’s a funny game. Shamus scoring right before the half was huge for us.”
The Alacranes had a gusty wind at their backs in the second half and generated a few good scoring chances, but goalie Atlee Gaddis and the Sundevils defenders were up to the challenge. Lucas Sandoval finally provided a clincher with a blast from the right wing that deflected off the crossbar and just over the goal line in the 78th minute.
NO. 1 SANDIA PREP 2, NO. 5 Tierra Encantada 0
Tierra Encantada 0 0—0
Sandia Prep 1 1—2
Scoring: SP, 39th, Shamus O’leary (Brian Altavas); SP, 78th, Lucas Sandoval. Saves: SP, Atlee Gaddis 2; TE, Jose Pichardo 9. Shots: SP 11; TE 2. Corner Kicks: SP 4; TE 1. Rec.: SP 14-8-0; TE 13-3-0.
No. 2 ROBERTSON 3, No. 3 MONTE DEL SOL 2: Dumbia converted two goals and an assist — including the tiebreaking score in the 69th minute — to help the Cardinals (15-5-0) outlast the Dragons (14-4-1).
The junior opened the scoring with a breakaway goal in the 14th minute, but Monte del Sol responded with back-to-back goals to grab a 2-1 lead. Moises Cerda rolled in a sliding shot to tie the contest, and Pedro Chavez later completed a nice individual run with a short blast to give the Dragons a lead that held through halftime.
But Robertson’s Joel Curtis tapped in a tying goal after a Dumbia shot deflected off the left post and rolled to his feet. Dumbia then blasted a direct kick off the hands of Dragons goalkeeper Joel Puentes and into the net in the 67th minute.
“First time I’ve scored on a free kick all season,” Dumbia said. “That felt amazing.”
NO. 2 Robertson 3, NO. 3 Monte del Sol 2
Monte del Sol 2 0— 2
Robertson 1 2—3
Scoring: R, 14th, Musah Dumbia; MDS, 20th, Moises Cerda; MDS, 25th, Pedro Chavez; R, 58th, Joel Curtis (Dumbia); R, 67th, Dumbia. Stat totals unavailable. Goalkeepers: R, Josue Garcia; MDS, Joel Puentes. 1. Rec.: R 15-5-0; MDS 14-4-1.
(Click here for the Boys 1A-3A bracket.)