It's been a long time coming for the Thunder Mountain boys' soccer team, but the Falcons finally got the monkey off their back by grabbing the program's first-ever victory in a 3-1 win Saturday against Sitka.
Less than 24 hours after a gut-wrenching 4-3 defeat in the final moments of Friday night's game versus Sitka, the Falcons (1-8) were determined to take the lead and keep it this time.
The effort and intensity was evident as Thunder Mountain came out strong and never let up, much to the delight of Falcons coach Kiel Urata.
"We definitely played 80 minutes hard today. They really wanted to get the win," he said. "Late in the game we pushed up, and we got a great goal from Jericho."
During a crucial period of time, up 2-1 in the final 20 minutes of play, sophomore forward Jericho Cristobal, one on one with a defender down the left side, beat his man and set up a cross in the box. After several deflections, he rebounded the loose ball and sent it into the back of the net to make the score 3-1, and the Wolves never recovered.
"It was nice to have two competitive games in a row. It's definitely a nice breather from what we've dealt with so far this season," Urata said. "You could see they wanted to win."
Midway through the first half, freshman forward Saul Santana took the ball off a series of great passes down the middle of the field and ripped the ball past the Sitka keeper for the first goal of the game.
Cristobal followed with his first goal of the game soon thereafter. From the top of the box, Cristobal hit a touch shot that flew over the goalkeeper's outstretched hands and dove under the crossbar to make the score 2-0, and it would remain that way through the end of the first half.
The momentum Cristobal had gained from his goal Friday showed in his play Saturday as he constantly attacked the Sitka defense. His goal late in the second half was an important response to a Sitka goal in the 60th minute that cut the Falcons' lead to one.
After the third goal of the day for the Falcons, the Wolves could not respond as Thunder Mountain celebrated the first win in the history of the young program.
"It's amazing. It's long overdue, so it's good that it happened (Saturday)," Cristobal said. "(The team progresses) every game. I felt we've come so far from when we first started, and it's cool to see how much everyone has improved over the last two months."
When asked how much confidence this win gives the team, Cristobal said it's nice right now, but it is just one game.
"We'll take it in a little, but it just feels good. That's it," he said, knowing the team must keep this victory in perspective.
Cristobal's two goals gave him three for the home series versus Sitka after scoring the Falcons' second goal during Friday night's game.
Urata said the team was ready to get back on the field after a Sitka player drilled a goal from around 30 yards out in the closing moments on Friday to escape with the victory over the then-winless Falcons.
"The players were really disappointed to lose on a last-second shot (Friday)," he said. "It was a very nice shot, but they were still disappointed."
Freshman forward Coltin Lanz had a great game Friday for Thunder Mountain as he finished the loss with two goals.
The close loss inspired the confidence the Falcons showed on Saturday, and Urata knows they have a chance to string some good games together as Thunder Mountain prepares for a trip to Sitka in two weeks.
"I think we'll have to adjust to their field, but (Thunder Mountain is) going to go excited to play," he said. "I think that's going to help over the next two weeks of practice, really, and give us some momentum going to Sitka."
With six goals in two games - three in each - the Falcons offense took off for the first time this season, thanks, in part, to the play of their front line.
"Our forwards played great. Coltin (Lanz) played outstanding today and kept attacking down the sideline," he said. "Jericho (Cristobal) was lights out, and Saul (Santana) had an amazing build up that he finished. I was really impressed."
The Falcons will have two weeks to prepare for a rematch against the Wolves in Sitka May 21-22.