For all the Albuquerque High boys soccer program has accomplished under coach Lucien Starzynski – and that’s a lot – there was one thing the Bulldogs had never done.
Until Friday night.
AHS, one of the state’s elite programs, won its first Albuquerque Metro Championship title on Friday, turning back Rio Rancho 2-1 in overtime at the APS Complex.
Cibola’s girls also hoisted the large metro trophy after the Cougars rallied for a 2-1 victory over district rival Cleveland.
ALBUQUERQUE HIGH 2, RIO RANCHO 1 (OT): Jared Moyers’ sixth goal of the season, three minutes into the first extra session, gave the Bulldogs (5-0) that elusive metro title.
In fact, Starzynski said after the game, his program had never even played for a metro championship until this year. Which seems odd, if only because the Bulldogs have been so consistently a major player at the November state tournament for the last few years.
AHS athletic director Doug Dorame said Starzynski would probably not admit it, but that his coach very much wanted to end that drought.
“It does feel good,” Starzynski admitted with a big smile. “And it’s a new experience. Because we’re not usually at our best in September. So we’re a little bit ahead of the game.”
On the game-winner, Albuquerque High’s Christian Nava, a sophomore sparkplug, chipped a pass up the left wing, where Moyers ran onto the ball.
He one-touched a shot – with his right (off) foot – past Rio Rancho (5-2) goalkeeper Marc Silcox, scoring from about 18 yards out as Silcox scampered out to try to cut down the angle.
“It seemed right to hit it with the outside of my right foot,” Moyers said. “He was covering the near post.”
The game was scoreless until the 70th minute, when the Rams’ David Hite broke the deadlock. A minute later, Nava was fouled in the box. Andres Robles stepped to the line and put home the equalizer for the Bulldogs.
“I don’t even think we’re peaking yet,” Moyers said. “We’re not even close to where we should be.”
CIBOLA 2, CLEVELAND 1: Both of the Cougars’ second-half goals came off a set piece – more or less.
The first one did for sure, as Emma Hood’s direct kick from about 40 yards out went off the top of Cleveland goalkeeper Ashlyn Bartley’s hands and into the net to square the match in the 51st minute.
“I honestly just looked at the goal, and then looked at the ball, and I was going to kick it as hard as I could,” Hood said. “I knew we needed to score right then.”
In the 72nd minute, Hood again lined up a direct kick, this one from about 10 yards closer but very near the previous spot.
Unlike the first one, this one hugged the ground. Which was by design.
“I knew they were gonna jump,” Hood said of the Storm.
It was like a pinball machine in front of the Cleveland net, bouncing off several players before sophomore forward Mercedes Morris pounced.
“I just put it in,” she said. “I put my whole heart and soul into that.”
Cibola is off to a 5-0 start under new coach Heath Weihe, who had coached Del Norte’s girls for 17 years before taking the last couple of years off.
“It’s new and it’s fun for us,” Morris said, “and it makes high school soccer fun.”