Glendale — The Salpointe Catholic Boys soccer team captured it’s third consecutive title on Friday evening under head coach Wolfgang Weber, defeating the No. 2 Saguaro Sabercats 4-1 in an exciting match. For Weber, the win also marked his tenth championship win and his 15th appearance.
“There’s only a few chances for it,” Weber said about being able to pull off three championships in a row. “We had it in the 80’s, we had one, two and we felt like it probably could happen and it didn’t. In 2012 and 2013, that was a good group, but then we lost a lot of players and it became a rebuilding type of thing.”
The game got off to a competitive start. Salpointe initially looked to have the upper hand, pushing the pace and controlling the offense. However, midway through the first half, Saguaro started to bring the heat. They were able to put a bit of a damper on the Lancers’ momentum, firing off a handful of shots of their own.
It didn’t matter how many shots either team seemed to fire off at the goal; Neither team was going to break prior to the half. Going into the lockers, things were still tied at zero.
“I had some things to say to them at halftime,” Weber said. “It was zero to zero. Let’s change some things around. You might have noticed that I put Luis in the midfield position rather than on the outside, and that really started the work for us because he’s got speed and the intensity to run some balls.”
As both teams continued to fight for the upper hand offensively, the momentum was seemingly behind Salpointe to start the second half. While the Lancers weren’t able to score off the number of penalty kicks they were able to attempt early on, it was enough to frustrate the Sabercats as they started to lose their composure.
“The key was composure,” Weber said. “They lost it a little bit, and that’s what brought it to a 4-1 game which could have been maybe a one goal game if it wasn’t for them sort of undoing themselves a little bit.”
It wasn’t until the 67th minute of the game when the Lancers were able to take the goose egg off the board. Sophomore Leo Gutierrez was able to pass the ball over to to Nicolas Valenzuela who knocked it into the net for a goal and a 1-0 lead, seemingly changing the entire energy of the game.
Around a minute after the goal from Valenzuela, sophomore Marco Torres was able to send it home on a penalty kick from around midfield to extend the lead to 2-0.
“I’m so proud of them, they really set a great example for the younger guys,” Weber said of his upperclassmen on the field Friday. “And the younger guys, to their credit, have pushed the seniors to perform at a very high level.”
Time was running out as the Sabercats attempted to to rally back, managing to finally get the ball into the net in the 75th minute.
Their hope would be short-lived, though, as the Lancers would answer right back after Gutierrez took the ball the entire length of the pitch before putting it into the net for a goal and a 3-1 lead. Salpointe still didn’t stop pushing, putting up one more goal in the 78th minute of play on an absolute laser up the middle by Valenzuela.
“That was I think his 34th [goal] of the season, on top of the 29 he had last year,” Weber said. “He’s just a sophomore.”
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Lancers began rising to their feet. Filled with a mix of excitement and pride over their accomplishments, as well as the sadness of saying goodbye to their senior heavy team, Salpointe had accomplished what they had set out to do at the beginning of the season by bringing home another trophy.
“We played a really, really heavy schedule,” Weber said. “We’re kind of battle-tested, if you will. When I looked at [Saguaro’s] schedule, I really honestly felt that and I communicated to the kids. We’ve been in more tough games than they have, because they played almost exclusively against 4A teams, and our schedule is always loaded with 6A and 5A teams. I think it’s just kind prepares us better for intense games like today, because we have been there.”
Although the Lancers will see nine seniors graduate this year, Weber will have a solid set of returning players to step up to the challenge next year. Weber said as he was looking at his bench during the game, he knew they were still set up for success because of how many talented underclassmen are on the roster.
“I feel really good about the kids on the bench today, our sophomores and juniors,” Weber said. “I think we are going to be competing again next year.”
Weber gave credit to the Sabercats, noting they had a fantastic season and it was a game which he felt for a better portion of it could have gone either way. He also gave credit to his right hand man, who he says has helped the Lancers reach the levels of success they had this year.
“I need to throw in my Associate Head Coach Luis Gonzalez,” Weber said. “He does all the hard work in terms of organizing the training sessions, and he’s done a lot of work on the long points, the corner kicks, and it really has paid dividends for us.”
The Lancers were able to enjoy a joyous bus ride back home to Tucson after the win while cherishing one last moment on the road with their huge group of seniors. Now, the team will wait to get inducted into the Lancers’ Hall of Fame at the end of the year.