Draper • It was tougher than expected, but the reward still was sweet.
American Leadership Academy broke a 1-1 tie in the second half by scoring three unanswered goals to defeat Summit Academy 4-1 in a Class 2A boys' soccer state tournament semifinal at Juan Diego on Friday.
Levi Lopez recorded his third hat trick of the season for the Eagles, who advanced to play Manti for the 2A championship Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. It will be ALA's first appearance in the state title game in the school's eight-year history.
"The first half was kind of tense, but we should keep on working hard until the end of the game," said Lopez, who upped his goal total to 20 this season. "Coach talked to us at halftime and motivated everyone. We picked it up from there."
Though it entered the game with the second-most goals scored in the state this season, ALA (16-1-0) had difficulty connecting passes and finding the net throughout the first half. The teams traded goals within the first 17 minutes of the contest and played even until the Eagles' scoring barrage.
"They might have had more control than we did, but hustle counts," ALA coach Steve Solen said. "I don't believe that was a 4-1 game. Summit played their guts out. We were just able to put more into the net."
Cobi Warren, who is nursing an ankle injury, broke the tie midway through the second half following a series of headers downfield by Lopez, Hector Martinez and Titi Chichia. The floodgates opened from there. Lopez scored his second and third goals, including one off a direct kick from about 20 yards out.
"Levi worked his butt off, and from there it was a domino effect," Solen said. "The second half we connected passes. We were more conditioned than they were. We outran them the last 20 minutes, and that's where the goals came from."
Lopez's final goal was a thing of beauty. Amid pressure by Summit, he switched the ball with his feet and blasted a shot into the upper right corner of the net, out of the reach of Bears goalkeeper Matt Farr.
Summit, which outshot ALA 7-2 in the first half, tied the game just three minutes after Lopez's first goal. Austin Farr worked the ball down the left sideline before crossing a pass to Zach Stanford, whose one-touch beat the keeper.
The Bears finished the season 13-3-0 overall, with their other two losses coming against region rival St. Joseph. The Eagles, who reached the semifinals in 2008, earned their sixth consecutive victory. ALA has outscored its playoff opponents 16-3 through three games thus far.