Coach Sean Terry watched from the sideline puzzled by what Sam Briceno was doing.
Briceno had specifically told his coach he didn’t want to take a penalty kick in Wednesday’s shootout with Bingham, so why in the world was he walking up to take the seventh penalty kick for Copper Hills?
“My team was in desperate need, and everyone here was all real nervous so I had to step up,” said Briceno.
Even though Briceno said he was nervous thinking about the prospect of taking a PK, once his turn came up he calmly picked out his spot and buried the penalty kick as the Grizzlies edged Bingham 6-5 in the shootout after 100 scoreless minutes of soccer that featured heavy rain for long stretches.
“As I was walking up all of it just cooled down,” said Briceno. “I was looking at the goalie and seeing where he was going and I just had to go opposite.”
Copper Hills keeper Tim Arauzo set up Briceno’s heroics by saving Bingham’s penalty in the seventh round of kicks.
Arauzo had previously saved Bingham’s penalty in the fifth round, but Bingham backup keeper Parker Gurr responded by making a diving save of his own to send the shootout to extra rounds tied 4-4.
In the sixth round Bingham’s Zack Sprunt and Copper Hills’ Max Gutierrez both buried their spot kicks, and then Briceno sealed it in the seventh.
“He came to me after the game and said ‘coach, I don’t want to take one, I’m just not feeling it today,’ and then he steps up and buries it and wins the game for us,” said Terry.
Copper Hills improved to 6-3 overall with the shootout win and 2-1 in Region 3.
Terry said Arauzo’s emergence at keeper in his first year with the team has been one of the biggest keys to the season for the Grizzlies. Even though he wasn’t called into action too much against Bingham prior to the shootout, he’s made timely saves all season. Not bad for a player that first-year coach Terry didn’t know about until the weekend before tryouts.
Arauzo played soccer his freshman and sophomore years at Taylorsville, but transfered to Copper Hills last year and didn’t even try out for the team. He wasn’t planning on playing this year either, but teammate Brady Birrell convinced him to just come to tryouts and see if he liked it. He ended up winning the starting job by the opening game and hasn’t looked back since.
“He’s been a rock this whole season. He’s amazing,” said Terry.
Collectively, Terry was quite pleased with how his team defended to earn its fourth shutout of the season, especially considering how much Bingham pressured his team.
“They surprise us with their speed. They came out today and they pressed us. I thought 10 minutes goes by, 15 minutes goes by and they’re going to slow down. And they didn’t slow down, so I’ve got to give them credit, they came out and put it to us and we struggled a bit with the pressure,” said Terry.
Copper Hills broke the pressure on numerous occasions to create transition opportunities the other way, but the link-up passing wasn’t good enough to create dangerous scoring opportunities from those chances.
Being more clinical with those opportunities over the final month of the regular season may ultimately define the season for Copper Hills.
“If we don’t make our own mistakes I don’t think there’s a lot of teams that are going to beat us this year. So I think that’s part of the problem, us just playing our game and settling down and just not making simple mistakes,” said Terry.