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WOODS CROSS — East High’s soccer team used an unconventional timeout — courtesy of the elements — to open up a game in its semifinal match against Timpview at the 4A state tournament Tuesday.
But it worked.
The Leopards scored three goals after a nearly hour-long weather delay, with a goal and an assist from freshman Daniel Rondeau, to rally past the Thunderbirds, 4-1, at Woods Cross High School.
“They sat in the locker room and talked amongst themselves. I didn’t do too much,” East coach Rudy Schenk said. “My other coaches ran and got some Gatorade to hydrate them, but after that, we had a nice, hard warmup coming back and got fired up. When it was our kick, I thought that was a great opportunity for us to continue with the momentum swing that we had.”
Schenk’s star midfielder and senior captain Erick Olivas helped the team focus during the lengthy stoppage in play, and the Leopards (15-3-1) used the delay to re-hydrate, re-stretch and focus on the task at hand.
“I think the game opened up for us. We really got going after that first goal,” said Olivas, who scored the Leopards’ first goal just moments before the delay was called. “It was a special moment for us; the rain delay kind of helped us. We were on a row, but in the locker room, we decided to go hard for the last nine minutes.”
Julian Kau gave Timpview (12-4-1) a lead in the 57th minute, knocking home a shot off a deflected save that the senior buried from the top of the box.
East nearly equalized 10 minutes later through Brigham Banks’ attempt on frame before the ball was picked up by Thunderbird goalkeeper Hugo Garcia. The Leopards would only wait four more minutes before Olivas took on three defenders, shimmied through the Timpview back line, and beat the goalkeeper to the far post to equalize just as lightning struck and caused the weather delay.
“I thought we were dead in the water,” Schenk said candidly. “But Erick Olivas makes that unbelievable play, dribbles in, puts his team on his shoulder, and he goes to score a goal that tied the game up. From there, we had momentum and the lightning delay — I didn’t know how that was going to go. I didn’t want to stop, but we also had some guys tired and cramping, and we were able to re-group and stretched some guys out. We came out hard, and that’s a big credit to Erick for the equalizer. I really thought we were done. We started off well, but hit a lull, and it continued into the second half.
“It was awesome. Credit to Erick for making a great play and being an awesome senior and captain. He knew he had to do it.”
After the delay, Matthew Barker’s corner kick bounced off a Timpview defender for a goal and the eventual game-winner. Barker took the kick from the left corner, and his in-swinging ball caromed off the defense and into the lower left corner to give the Leopards a 2-1 lead while the Thunderbirds were easing back into the game.
“I think once we got one, we were up, and that really helped,” Schenk said. “(Timpview) is a good team; you don’t get to the semis unless you are. They played so well, were peaking at the end of the season, and they beat two very good teams.”
After nearly an hour in the locker room as rain, wind, hail and lightning battered the field, the Leopards came out hot.
“We just decided to sit down, just relax, and we knew it wasn’t over yet,” Olivas said. “We knew that nothing was guaranteed. We stayed focused, stayed calm and told everyone to turn it up at the end.”
Barker’s in-swinger fell into the net with eight minutes left in the game, and Erick Hulbert finished Rondeau’s cross from the right side of the box into the back of the net for a 3-1 advantage.
As the clock expired, Rondeau picked off a loose ball at the Timpview back line and finished a goal with about 40 seconds remaining in the match for the final margin.
The Leopards will face Skyline at 7 p.m. Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
SKYLINE 2, PROVO 1 — At Woods Cross, Brigham Jackson’s goal just three minutes before the end of the match sealed the win for the defending 4A champion Eagles.
Hunter Kone gave Skyline (12-6-1) the 1-0 lead in the fourth minute of the match, but the Eagles couldn’t add to the margin despite eight first-half shots, with five of them on target and four of them from Kone himself.
“It was a great goal from my teammates,” Kone said, deferring credit to Gary Buckley’s assist. “I got in the air, and that’s how I try to score for my team. I won it in the air and just flicked it into the top corner.
“We were very excited to come in and try to get back to the state championship. We knew if we played well, we could get the win.”
Buckley whipped in a cross to the center of the box for Kone, who out-leapt the competition and flicked a header into the upper 90 with just more than three minutes off the clock to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead at halftime.
Despite six shots on goal to try to increase the margin, Skyline couldn’t break through in the second half until Jackson latched on to a long ball blasted over the top of the defense and chipped Provo goalkeeper Carlos Uribe to go up 2-0.
The Bulldogs (14-3-2) nearly equalized in the 62nd minute, when Skyline was whistled for a handball in the penalty box. Provo senior Jorge Vargas stepped up to the spot — and saw his attempt at a left-footed shot saved by diving Skyline goalkeeper Will DeSantis, who only gave up one goal in the state tournament prior to Tuesday.
“Will is the best keeper I know,” Kone said. “He’s a world-class keeper, and that was a world-class save. He’s always blocked PKs in practice, and I knew he could save that if he had the chance.”
Barely a minute after Jackson’s goal, the Bulldogs pulled one back through Jonathan Ruvalcaba’s squirming shot over DeSantis to pull the Utah County side within a goal.
“Mistakes like that can’t happen if we want to win a state championship. I need to do better,” DeSantis said. “But my team played get.
“Brigham’s goal was big, though. It helped us win the game.”
DeSantis wouldn’t allow another goal, finishing the evening with four saves, including one in the final minute of play to preserve the win for the Eagles, who advanced to their second-straight state final.
“I believe we have a great team,” DeSantis said. “We’re peaking at the right time, and if we play well, it should be a great game.”