SANTA ANA PUEBLO — Albuquerque Academy head coach Peter Glidden kept encouraging his team after each missed scoring opportunity.
“It’s going to come, it’s going to come,” he repeated several times during the girls’ soccer 5A state final Saturday night against top-seeded St. Pius.
And Glidden was right. Eventually, it did come.
In the final minute of the first scheduled 10-minute overtime, a sophomore-to-sophomore connection unlocked the scoreless game.
Tessa Anderson served up a crossing pass from the left side to the right side of the post. The Chargers’ leading scorer, Eliza Mariner, bent down and redirected a header into the far right corner in the 90th minute.
Just like that, it was over. The second-seeded Chargers had unseated the three-time defending state champions with a 1-0 win.
“We defend so well, we just know if we get enough chances, one is going to come,” Glidden said. “If we keep a clean sheet, eventually we’re going to break through.
“Eliza finished a great, classy header off an awesome cross. It was so beautiful.”
What wasn’t so beautiful — the field conditions after a one-hour lightning and rain delay.
The Sartans scored six goals in two wins over the Chargers in the regular season but on Saturday never did find the precise passing game that defined those two victories.
“Conditions played a big role,” said St. Pius head coach David Sullivan Jr. “We moved it really well in the two games we won. But on this surface, you can’t move the ball. Credit to (Academy). They came out fired up.”
St. Pius was denied the apparent winning goal early in the overtime period when leading scorer Tatiana Limon was ruled offsides on a breakaway. Sullivan Jr. disputed the call to no avail, and the Chargers were given a reprieve.
Mariner, a 30-plus goal scorer this season to easily lead the Chargers, didn’t start the state final, and there was some doubt that she would even be available for the state playoffs after suffering an injury in the loss to St. Pius two weeks ago.
“She was still recovering from the injury, and a lot of other players were stepping up, so she didn’t start,” Glidden said. “I knew she wanted to get in there. She started off the season scoring for us, and she certainly finished it.”
Mariner did not see much playing time in the first half, and she didn’t have a really good look at the goal until she put herself in the perfect position to net the winner.
“We definitely believed we would score,” Mariner said. “I just felt joy , and I saw it go into the net. I’m just so thankful for my teammates.”
Glidden also acknowledged the adage that it’s difficult to beat a team three times in a year.
“It was just fantastic to see the girls work so hard and beat a team that had beaten them two times,” the coach said. “I don’t think we can be beaten three times (by another team).”
ABQ ACADEMY 1, ST. PIUS 0 (OT)
ABQ Academy 0 0 1—1
St. Pius 0 0 0—0
Scoring: AA, 90th Eliza Mariner (Tessa Anderson). Shots: AA 4; SP 6; Corner kicks: AA 4; SP 0; Saves: AA 5 (Mikey Montoya 5; SP 3 (Kassandra Aceves). Records: AA 16-7; SP 17-5-1.