SALT LAKE CITY — East High junior soccer player Ryen Jiba thought he was robbed of a goal.
At least that is how he felt after his attempted header clanked harmlessly off the Olympus crossbar Friday afternoon at East High School.
“It was a goal,” said Jiba. “It crossed the line.”
The scoring opportunity came barely 10 minutes into the game between Olympus (8-2-3) and East (8-5), a pair of heated Region 6 foes.
Jiba, the Leopards' leading scorer this year with eight scores, was on the receiving end of a cross, a well placed one at that, which he deftly directed toward the top right corner of the net.
Had his attempt gone in, it would have put the Leopards on the board, something they struggled to do in their previous matchup against the Titans, an April 17th game that ended in an East defeat.
“We played pretty well when we played them the first time. It was pretty even. We just didn’t get the ball in the net,” said East head coach Rudy Schenk.
That was not the case Friday.
Led by Jiba, who netted two goals, not counting his header, as well as forward Max Neuberger and keeper Alex Canales, East handily defeated Olympus 3-0.
“Today we got it in the net,” said Schenk. “We were angry after a loss the other day (heading into the contest East had lost three games in a row, including a 4-2 defeat at home to Murray) and really talked about how we needed to come out aggressive and strong as a team. I thought we did that.”
“We’d been losing our past games so we had a meeting,” added Jiba. “Our coaches told us we had to be more focused. We were focused today, got goals and got the win.”
The first East score came courtesy of Neuberger, immediately following Jiba’s header. The ball rebounded, first off the crossbar and then off the post, before it bounced into the box. It was there that Neuberger did his damage, drilling the ball past Olympus goalkeeper Ian Jones.
Neuberger was instrumental in the Leopards second score as well, which came in the waning moments of the first half.
The senior speedster took the ball up the right wing before crossing the ball into the middle of the field. It was there, after a scrum of sorts, that the ball popped out to Jiba, who made his second attempt count.
“I saw (the ball) going to Chewy and the defender accidentally hit it back (toward me),” said Jiba. “I got it and finished it.”
While East was busy scoring goals, Olympus struggled to get shots on goal, after an early surge that netted the Titans five free kicks.
After Tony Foulger’s free kick rebounded off the crossbar, 15 minutes into the game, Olympus mustered just one shot the rest of the first half.
Credit for that fell squarely on the shoulders of the Leopards midfield, defensive backs and Canales.
“Our midfield was really good,” said Schenk. “They had a couple of mistakes here or there, but they’re teenage boys, they are going to make mistakes. Our defense was really solid. They did a great job sticking to our game plan, did what we do well and got the job done. The only chances (Olympus) had were free kicks.”
Jiba added his final score in the second half, an insurance goal the Leopards hardly needed, when he beat Jones one final time.
“I was around the 20 (yard line) and they gave me space,” said Jiba. “I turned, faked my left foot, got a player and hit it with my right foot full steam.”
After that, all East had to do was wait for the clock to tick down to zero.
During that time, the Titans tried to rally, in the final 20 minutes they took more shots than in the previous 60 minutes, but Canales refused to be beaten, making save after save.
“He got the job done,” said Schenk. “It was an excellent win.”
Up next for East is a game at West High School, Tuesday, May 1, while Olympus hosts rival Murray.