;It’s satisfying because so many of these players are sophomores. Most of these kids have grown up together and playing together, they’re getting to know each other more and they’re playing well together, —American Leadership coach Antonio Mendieta
SPANISH FORK — American Leadership coach Antonio Mendieta was thrilled with his team’s finishing ability in the first half of Thursday’s 3A first-round game, but was also worried that it came a bit too easy.
He cautioned his players repeatedly at halftime not to let up despite the four-goal lead, but it happened anyway.
“It’s something that shouldn’t happen, but usually happens when you get up 4-0 in the first half. You relax at halftime, and then you’re not on the same momentum when you come back in — even though we talk about not relaxing,” said Mendieta.
Fortunately for the Eagles, they didn’t squander the entire four-goal cushion as they held off Summit Academy’s comeback bid for the wild 5-4 victory.
Joe Valle scored four goals, including three in the first half, to lead the charge for American Leadership. His penalty kick in the 71st minute proved to be the gamer as his team narrowly escaped as Lincoln Augenstein led the spirited charge in the second half for Summit Academy with three goals.
With the win, ALA advances to the quarterfinals on Saturday and will face the Emery-Union winner.
“It’s satisfying because so many of these players are sophomores. Most of these kids have grown up together and playing together, they’re getting to know each other more and they’re playing well together,” said Mendieta.
ALA was confident from the outset, and it showed as it did most of its damage going forward in those opening 40 minutes to build the 4-0 lead.
Summit Academy had chances to match that productivity in the first half, but missed two open nets and then hit the post on another opportunity.
When ALA had similar chances it finished.
It started with Valle’s calm PK finish in the 18th minute after he was fouled in the box by the keeper. His second goal less than a minute later is the stuff of YouTube legend.
Valle intercepted a through ball attempt by Summit Academy on the ensuing kickoff, and he quickly looked up and spotted the keeper off his line near the top of the box. He wasted no time uncorking the shot from roughly 50 yards out.
The keeper frantically backpedaled but to no avail as the ball dipped under the crossbar for the 2-0 lead.
“That’s one of the things that only the good players can pull off,” said Mendieta.
In the 30th minute, Valle stretched the lead to 3-0 as he got in behind Summit Academy’s backline and then chipped a shot over the charging keeper from 15 yards out. Shortly before halftime, Jaron Anderson pushed the lead to 4-0 on an assist from Valle.
Despite the big hole, Summit Academy came storming back in the second half. Lincoln Augenstein used his speed to cut the deficit to 4-2 as he got in behind the defense in both the 50th and 59th minute for easy finishes.
In the 63rd minute, Collin Willey slalomed through four ALA defenders and calmly put the ball away to make it a 4-3 game.
American Leadership could breathe a little easier again in the 71st minute when Valle scored again on a penalty kick after a handball in the box.
In fact, Valle’s second PK proved to be the game-winner as Augenstein tacked on one more goal in the 75th minute, but ALA’s defense held on in the final frantic minutes to preserve the win.