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ALBUQUERQUE — It was a disappointing end to the 2012 girls soccer season for the Los Alamos Hilltoppers Friday afternoon.
Los Alamos, trying to reach its fourth state championship game in five years, couldn’t get over the hump that was the Aztec Tigers in the quarterfinal round at the Albuquerque Public Schools Soccer Complex.
The two teams slogged through regulation offensively amid a stiff breeze and intermitten showers, but in the 84th minute, Aztec’s Jessica Kresl hit a line drive from the top of the penalty box inside the left post past Los Alamos goalkeeper Bryce Theesfeld to give the Tigers a 1-0 victory.
It was a quick end for the Hilltoppers in this year’s tournament, especially considering they felt they had a good shot to earn their first championship since 2003.
“We played sluggish, we had no rhythm,” Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek said. “I don’t know if we were looking ahead or we thought this tournament was going to be easy.”
For the first time since 2000, a team other than Los Alamos, Academy or St. Pius X made the championship game in Class 4A. Academy and St. Pius met in the other semifinal Friday, with the top-seeded Academy Chargers taking the victory.\
Los Alamos struggled to score goals in the tournament. It nipped Piedra Vista in Thursday’s quarterfinal 1-0, getting a goal from Amy Neal in the latter portion of the first half but getting very little going offensively for the final 50 minutes of that game, then never got on track offensively against Aztec.
The Hilltoppers, who went 18-4 in 2012, had some trouble finding their offensive identity after losing forward Catie McDonald to injury a month ago. McDonald, a freshman, had become an effective 1-2 punch along with Neal, the leading scorer in 4A during the regular season.
It was also a struggle for Los Alamos this year to find a leader to rally around, something that Kubicek said was evident during the tournament.
“They (the Tigers) were aggressive and we made some unusual mistakes,” he said. “Amy couldn’t do anything much against them. You need the whole team to get together...The kids worked hard, but we needed a spark. We needed someone to make big plays.”
Aztec, which concluded the season with a mark of 21-3, one of the top won-loss marks in the entire state, turned in its best season in program history. The Tigers, however, weren’t able to take down the Chargers, who won their sixth consecutive state title Saturday, topping the Tigers 3-1.
Friday’s game was the final contest in the prep career of Neal, who finishes among the all-time top scorers at the school, winning 4A scoring titles in 2011 and 2012.
It also marked the final game in the careers of Theesfeld, Laura Wendelberger, Leslie Guarello, Jordan Ahlers, Katelyn Leslie, Christina Moore, Allison Rooney and Cassidy Reeves.