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3A boys: Western recovers to beat Sparks in double overtime

Even though Western’s boys soccer team gave up a game-tying goal final minute of regulation Friday, the Warriors didn’t panic.

Head coach Kory Pippin kept urging his team to “play the next ball, stay in the game and trust your teammates.”

Six minutes later, junior Mauricio Muniz sent his into a full frenzy.

Muniz took a pass down the left sideline, made a move past a Sparks defender and converted a goal from about 25 yards in the second overtime, giving the Warriors a 3-2 victory in the Class 3A state semifinals at Bettye Wilson Park.

Western (19-3-3) will face North Valleys (25-2) at 10 a.m. Saturday at Bettye Wilson, as the Warriors look for their first state crown.

“We certainly do things the hard way,” said Pippin. “We gave up two easy goals, but we stayed in the fight. We just kept playing the next ball, not dwelling on the past.”

On Western’s first possession in the second overtime, Muniz made the game’s biggest play, outrunning the Railroader back line and blasted a shot past goalie Cruz Ramirez.

Sparks (18-5-2) opened the scoring six minutes into the game when Giovanni Lopez’s header past Francisco Corona gave the Railroaders a 1-0 lead.

Western dominated the next 34 minutes of play, and got goals from Jose Muniz and Andy Rodriguez to take a 2-1 lead at halftime.

It appeared the Warriors were headed to the final in regulation but Sparks had one final attempt.

And it worked.

On a free kick, Marlon Monreal, who had assists on both Sparks goals, found Alex Cabrera, and his header went just over the outstretched arms of Corona tying the match at 2-2.

“The guys didn’t get their heads down,” said Pippin. “We have overcome adversity all season long, and we had to do it again Friday. They dug deep, and got it done.”

In the first overtime, Western had two solid chances in odd-man rushes, but Ramirez came up with diving saves on both occasions.

North Valleys 2, Sunrise Mountain 1 — At Bettye Wilson, Caleb Hoyt blasted in a shot from 25 yards to give the Panthers a victory over the Miners in the other semifinal.

“It’s just unfortunate because we talked all week talking about getting out on their shooters, and then finally they got one through. You just get beat on a good shot,” Sunrise Mountain coach Patrick Mohrbacher said. “The worst thing about this is the immediate ending is so brutal. One minute you are playing, and the next minute you are in tears.”

Luis Luna put Sunrise Mountain (18-3-1) in front early when he connected on a shot from 30 yards out just five minutes into the match.

The Miners then clung to the lead through most of the match, but the Panthers dominated possession and had more of the dangerous opportunities as the second half went on.

North Valleys broke through with the equalizer in the 77th minute, when Brian Morales took a pass from Adonay Medina and buried it in the back of the net.

In the overtime period, both teams had opportunities before Hoyt found some space at midfield and booted home the long game-winner.

“I thought we played really well,” Mohrbacher said. “They are a good team, but whenever you are nursing a lead, you’d like to close it out. But we had a good year and just came up a little short.”

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