When Wasatch’s starting goalkeeper suffered an injury in a collision last week, the Wasps turned to sophomore Elder Gutierrez Ruiz to take over between the pipes.
On Friday, that meant going up against undefeated Skyridge on the road in a big Region 8 battle.
Ruiz was determined to be ready.
“With our starting keeper unable to come, I knew I had to take responsibility and show I can play at a high level,” Ruiz said. “I had to be ready for the moment.”
That might be easy to say but Ruiz proved it with his play on the field, making nearly a dozen impressive saves — including some critical ones in the final minutes — as Wasatch knocked off the Falcons, 2-1.
“It’s always fun out there,” Ruiz said. “I get nervous but you have to show you can stand your ground, show what you are capable of.”
Wasp head coach Jared Hendry credited Ruiz and the rest of the team for playing with composure and making the plays they needed to make.
“They (Skyridge) had some chances,” Hendry said. “Senior Jaxon Bridge saved two goals by clearing the ball off the line. I’m proud of our performance.”
Both teams attacked relentlessly, putting both defenses under heavy pressure.
Neither side could find a way to break through until the 29th minute, when Wasatch got the ball to senior midfielder Carlos Vargas just inside the Falcon penalty box, where he created just enough space to rifle the ball into the back of the net.
“He has done that for us all season,” Hendry said. “I think he has nine goals. He knows how to find the right place, find the holes.”
The Wasps then doubled their lead in the 47th minutes when their pressure helped junior Grayson Mercer get free down the sideline.
“Grayson brought it around and made a beautiful pass,” Hendry said. “Wesley Carse was there to head it in.”
The 2-0 Wasatch advantage had Skyridge on its heels but the Falcons weren’t done.
The home team started pushing players forward and it paid dividends in the 59th minute. Skyridge senior midfielder Dalton Gibson got the ball to the end line and crossed it in, where Falcon senior defender Tommy Phillips chipped it up and just over the arm of the leaping Ruiz to make it 2-1.
That set up a tense final 20 minutes of action as Skyridge desperately tried to get the equalizer and the Wasps tried to hold on.
“Our boys played calm, distributing the ball,” Hendry said. “They were pushing up but our defense played a great game.”
Ruiz said the final minutes were nerve-wracking.
“They had a free kick that I just tipped over the top,” Ruiz said. “We had to keep our heads and not foul. When the final whistle blew, it felt amazing.”
Falcon head coach Jerry Preisendorf credited Wasatch for finishing its shots.
“Their keeper made some good saves but we also didn’t make it too hard for him,” Preisendorf said. “The goal is 24-feet wide but we hit it at him. They are a good team. This is our first loss of the year, so it’s a bitter feeling but we’ll see how we come out next Tuesday.”
The Wasps (6-2-1, 1-1-0) next hosts Springville on Thursday, while Skyridge (5-1-3, 2-1-0) will look to get back on track when it hosts Maple Mountain on the same afternoon.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.