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Although the Albuquerque Academy Chargers appear to be as good as advertised, the Los Alamos Hilltoppers gave them all they could handle Tuesday afternoon.
The Hilltopper boys soccer team held the Chargers scoreless until the waning minutes of regulation. The lone goal of the game, scored in the 72nd minute, gave Academy a 1-0 victory at Richard Harper Memorial Field.
It was a disappointing loss for Los Alamos, especially after manufacturing some scoring chances in the contest, but Los Alamos head coach Evan Gartz said his team has nothing to hang its head about.
“We kept them at bay for most of the game,” he said. “That’s a pretty big confidence boost for our boys, to hang around with the top team in the state. That will help us out in the long run.”
Academy boasts one of the most feared offenses in the state, having scored three goals or more in four games this season, so far, but the Hilltopper defense was up to the challenge Tuesday.
It wasn’t until the latter portion of the second half that the Chargers started to make inroads against the Hilltopper defense. For a nearly 10-minute-long stretch in the second half the Chargers kept the ball on the Hilltoppers’ side of the field with their defense, which had been stellar up to that point, struggling to clear.
In both halves, Los Alamos had some 1-on-1 chances with Academy goalkeeper Xavier Moya, one of the top keepers in AAAA, but Gartz said his team was a little frantic with the ball and didn’t get many good shots off when it did get those chances. Los Alamos did have some shots that connected with the posts on the Academy goal.
Los Alamos and Academy met twice during the 2008 season. In the first meeting at Los Alamos, the Hilltoppers won 5-3, their marquee victory of the regular season. The Chargers would get the last laugh, however, knocking Los Alamos out of the AAAA state championship tournament, 2-0, in the semifinal round.
Although Gartz said he would have to compare and contrast Academy to St. Pius X, which Los Alamos will face on the road Thursday, he thinks the Chargers (5-2) could be the team to beat in AAAA this season.
“This is their year,” he said. “Their seniors have been with the program from three years now and they’ve been banking on this year awhile.”
Los Alamos (4-4) has lost three of its last four contests, including two of three at the Academy Invitational last weekend.
Gartz said he’s not worried about the losses right now so long as his team is figuring out what it needs to do to improve.
Los Alamos struggled at the Academy tournament against Class 5A Oñate, but bounced back to top a formidable opponent in the Hope Christian Huskies, 2-1. Los Alamos lost its tournament opener there to Rio Rancho in overtime.