The semifinals of the Albuquerque Metro Soccer Championships amounted, in short, to bursts of individual creativity.
The girls from La Cueva and Rio Rancho, along with the boys from Cibola and La Cueva, won semifinal games Wednesday night at the APS Complex, setting up Friday night’s finals.
The boys’ championship is 6:45 p.m. Friday, the girls at 7:15.
CIBOLA 4, SANDIA 3 (OT): This was, by far, the most exciting and entertaining of the four games Wednesday.
“We played well. We didn’t play well,” said Cibola’s Christian Canales. “Then we finished it.”
The Cougars (4-0) scored the first two goals, the Matadors (2-2) the next three.
Cibola’s Joe Ortiz, in the 70th minute, tied the game on a penalty kick.
Roughly midway through the first, 10-minute overtime, the Cougars’ terrific playmaking midfielder, Sergio Rivas, played a ball from near the PK line, to his left where Canales banged home a 15-yard game-winning goal into the upper right corner.
“It couldn’t have been stopped,” Canales said of his curving shot.
“He’s been a guy who’s scored goals for us in the past,” Cibola coach Cameron Clarke said, “but he’s had a little bit of a drought. This was a big confidence boost for him.”
Cibola is the defending metro champ.
“Every time it’s us at Sandia, you’re always in for a treat,” Clarke said.
LA CUEVA 1, ATRISCO HERITAGE 0: The Bears (4-0) had to be thrilled with this result, given recent history between the sides.
Atrisco Heritage (2-1-1) knocked La Cueva out of last year’s metro tournament and beat the Bears in the first round of state.
Jak Eddings’ header goal early in the second half was the difference for La Cueva.
“This was a nice win for us,” said Eddings, a junior attacking midfielder, after his first goal of the season.
Teammate Greg Jacobus set up Eddings perfectly, and Eddings headed the shot home.
“It seems like we’re coming together well,” Eddings said. “We have a lot of chemistry, and it’s setting up to be a very good year.”
LA CUEVA 2, ELDORADO 1: It was one of those one-on-one showdowns that you rarely see at the upper levels of prep soccer.
Jordyn Lacy of the Bears was on the right wing. In net for Eldorado (2-1-1), the Eagles’ All-State goalkeeper, Morgan Divine.
Divine – who yielded just five goals in all of the Eagles’ 2013 championship season – came out to the fringes of the 18-yard box to cut down the shooting angle for Lacy.
Lacy didn’t hesitate, sailing a shot over Divine’s head and into the net for her second tally of the game. It staked La Cueva (4-0) to a 2-0 advantage over their district rivals.
“To shoot right away (over her head) is the riskier play,” La Cueva coach Amber Ashcraft said. “But Jordyn knows what she’s doing.”
RIO RANCHO 2, CLEVELAND 1: In a battle of two 5-0 sides, it was Imani Morlock’s goal that proved to be the difference for the Rams against their fierce league rival.
“It’s a great win,” Rio Rancho coach Uwe Balzis said. “It gives us confidence for the final, and the girls see they can hang with anybody.”
The Morlock goal was a stroke of good fortune.
Morlock was looking to cross to her teammate, Leilani Baker, but the pass deflected off a Storm defender and back to Morlock, who headed it home from about 10 feet out.
“We dominated in the first half, but in the second half, we got a little sloppy,” Morlock said.