Las Vegas, Galena meet for title

State championship berths in soccer aren’t awarded on style points. No one could be happier about that than Las Vegas’ boys.

The Wildcats played a marvelous first half and then hung on for dear life Friday, edging Clark 2-1 in a Class 4A state semifinal at Bettye Wilson Park. Las Vegas (15-0-3) will meet Galena (13-6-5), a winner over Bishop Gorman in penalty kicks in the other semifinal, at 11 a.m. today for the state title.

“I can’t believe we played so poorly and won,” Las Vegas coach Vince Hart said. “I’m torn. I’m glad we won, but we cannot play like that again.”

Las Vegas put on a display of speed and precision in opening a 2-0 lead 30 minutes into the match.

Joaquin Rivas sliced through the Chargers’ defense and fed Danny Sanchez at the box for the first goal in the 18th minute. Rivas scored just inside the right post 12 minutes later after Ricky Suazo intercepted a Clark pass and fed a pass between two defenders to Rivas.

Las Vegas had four other shots and narrowly missed the goal twice more in the first half and hit the inside of the post early in the second half.

“That’s been a pattern,” Hart said. “We’ve done it all season. We had a chance to bury them in the first half. Credit to them for hanging in.”

Clark got within one on Salvador Bernal’s tip-in of Raul Castro’s free kick. Castro’s kick bounced over Las Vegas goalkeeper Rogelio Zaragoza and was deflected in by Bernal, who was injured on the play.

Clark had four more scoring chances in the next 12 minutes after having two in the first half.

“We always start late,” Clark coach Juan Chavez said. “If we could have had a couple more minutes, it might have been different. Their speed just shocked us. … We didn’t give up.”

Galena 0, Bishop Gorman 0 — Max Giesler stopped JoJo Vitale’s shot in the first round of sudden-death penalty kicks to lift Galena into the title match and end Gorman’s hope of a three-peat.

Giesler, a 6-foot-4-inch junior, sprawled to his right and got his fingertips on Vitale’s low shot. As the ball trickled toward the goal line, Giesler cradled it, ending the match.

“It was very close,” Giesler said. “I saw his hips turn a little, so I knew he was going (to my) right.”

After playing through regulation and two overtimes without a goal, each team scored in all five rounds of penalty kicks, setting up the sudden-death shootout.

Galena’s Trevor Johnson scored with a shot that seemed to fool Gorman goalkeeper Jake O’Rourke before Giesler stopped Vitale.

Giesler made eight saves. O’Rourke made four saves.

“They played great defense,” Bishop Gorman coach Nick Arbelaez said. “They’re a scrappy team, and they challenge everything. They just had a little more heart.”

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@ or 702-387-5230.

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