Salpointe Catholic Wins 4A Men’s Soccer Title Against Notre Dame Prep

Tucson Salpointe Catholic elder Sergio Ruiz de Chavez had planned the celebration for his first goal in Tuesday night’s 4A Men’s Championship game.

After finishing a stray ball to the back post, he ran towards the corner flag and performed Cristiano Ronaldo’s “Siu” celebration, jumping and spinning 180 degrees while extending his arms.

That was as far as Ruiz de Chavez’s planning went. So when he scored his second goal – this time controlling a through ball from Albert Aguirre and sliding it past the Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep keeper with a deft outside-foot finish – Ruiz’s instincts of Chavez took over.

He sprinted full speed across the Williams Field High School field in Gilbert, then onto the sideline until he hit the Lancers bench in a medley of jubilation — the type that comes, naturally, when you put your school on the precipice of an eventual 3-1 state championship win.

“So much adrenaline,” said Ruiz de Chavez. “…Man, I had no idea what was going on. I just ran to my coach because I owe him so much.

An hour later, long after Tuesday’s win was official, that coach, Wolfgang Weber, called this year’s Catholic Salpointe team a special one. Weber would know. Forty years ago he founded Salpointe Catholic Soccer, making it a powerhouse that has now won nine titles since its first in 1985.

“Of course I’m very happy,” Weber said. “I’m really happy for these guys because they worked very hard all season and we competed with the best.”

In the first half, Notre Dame Prep had the elixir of style based on possession of Salpointe Catholic. With hard tackles and a commitment to direct football, the fourth-seeded Saints held on despite being at a technical disadvantage.

“Until the (first) goal it was very even,” Weber said. “Could have gone either way.”

After Ruiz de Chavez’ opener, Notre Dame Prep had to press for a response, opening their back line to be exposed by a dangerous Catholic attack from Salpointe who scored 109 goals in 25 appearances this season.

That’s exactly what Ruiz de Chavez did seven minutes into the second half, knocking the Lancers out of back-to-back titles.

“That 2-0 was a really good lead for us and we kind of knew we couldn’t be comfortable, but it was going to be tough for them to overcome,” Ruiz de Chavez said.

The final blow came three minutes later from freshman forward Leo Gutierrez. After receiving a pass down the left wing, Gutierrez took a touch inside and unleashed a perfectly placed curling shot into the top right corner.

The strike was Gutierrez’s 29th of the season — more than any freshman Weber has ever coached.

“It’s a really nice feather that he can put on his cap,” Weber said. “And he has a lot of upside potential. … But for him to find a quality lens like that was very nice.

Although Notre Dame Prep salvaged a goal with 21 minutes remaining, Gutierrez’s goal essentially ended the night – and an era in Salpointe Catholic football.

Throughout this season, the Lancers have relied on a deep senior class. In the past four years, this class has become the first in school history to win three state titles. Now they’re leaving, replaced by Gutierrez and a talented cohort of underclassmen.

But first, the seniors had one last act. This happened late Tuesday evening, after yet another trophy presentation. Senior Santiago Ballesteros – starting each of the past two years – lifted the golden ball, mobbed by his teammates as they ran into a small group of students outside the stands.

“It’s not just a good team,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a very good program.”

Theo Mackie covers Arizona high school sports and Phoenix Rising FC. He can be reached by email at [email protected] and on Twitter @theo_mackie.

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