The synced-up duo of Sanchit Singh and Neven Zapatka on Wednesday afternoon sent the Albuquerque Academy boys soccer program back to another state final.
Singh masterfully set up both of Zapatka’s goals, including a header off a cornerkick in the 62nd minute that broke a tie, and the second-seeded Chargers beat visiting No. 6 Highland 2-1 in the Class 4A semifinals.
Academy (14-6), the defending state champion, advanced to Friday’s 12:30 p.m. title game at the University of New Mexico soccer stadium against No. 1 Lovington (19-1).
“I think it means the world, after the emotional season we’ve had,” Academy coach Laney Kolek said.
The Chargers beat the Wildcats in overtime in the spring state final at UNM. Lovington downed visiting Hope Christian 1-0 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
“This is back-to-back finals for us. We’re getting locked in and we’re ready to go,” said Singh, a senior midfielder.
Singh’s left foot put into motion both goals for Academy. In the second half, after two outstanding corners into the box that didn’t pan out, he sent a third from the near corner that did.
His curving ball was met there by Zapatza’s head, as he redirected it past Highland goalkeeper Diego Ortega for what proved to be the game-winner.
“I just angled my body,” Zapatka said. “Me and Sanchit have been practicing this … even with the sun in my eyes, I was glad to finish.”
That combination also struck in the 28th minute, a game-tying goal. From the left wing, Singh sent a beautiful ball into the box, and Zapatka took it out of the air and slammed it home top shelf.
“An absolute banger!” Kolek said.
That was the first goal given up by Highland since a Sept. 28 match against St. Pius.
“It was amazing,” Zapatka said of the first goal. He also had a hat trick in a quarterfinal victory over St. Pius. “Hell of a pass from Sanchit.”
Highland scored on a penalty kick about 90 seconds into the game after a foul in the box against Academy goalkeeper Zach Sena.
Faber Cardenas slammed home the penalty kick for the Hornets (14-5-2).
ALBUQUERQUE ACADEMY 2, HIGHLAND 1
Highland 1 0 — 1
Academy 1 1 — 2
Scoring: H, 2nd, Faber Cardenas, PK; AA, 28th, Neven Zapatka (Sanchit Singh); AA, 62nd, Zapatka (Singh). Shots on goal: H 2; AA 10. Saves: H, Diego Ortega 8; AA, Zach Sena 1. Corner kicks: H 4; AA 9. Records: AA 14-6; H 14-5-2.