Boys soccer: Hilltoppers to take on Coyotes Thursday

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By Mike Cote

If the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys soccer team felt jilted in any way by not getting a top-four seed for the Class AAAA state tournament, it will have a chance to rectify that Thursday.

Los Alamos, following its big win over the Goddard Rockets at home Friday, is advancing in the AAAA playoffs to take on Goddard’s cross-town rival, Roswell.

That quarterfinal game is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Albuquerque Soccer Complex.

The Hilltoppers, the fifth seed in the boys tournament bracket, thought at the end of the regular season they might sneak in as a No. 4 seed for the tournament. While the difference between No. 4 and No. 5 seeds might not seem like much, it would’ve been the difference between having 12 days off and playing a first round game.

The team that Los Alamos was edged out by for that No. 4 spot was Roswell.

Roswell won District 4AAAA, in which Goddard finished third out of three competing teams.

Roswell’s Coyotes made an appearance at the 2009 Louie Cernicek Memorial Invitational, where they advanced to the semifinals before falling to eventual tournament winner Rio Rancho. The Coyotes finished third at the tournament, scoring a 3-1 win over Farmington.

On the season, the Coyotes finished 17-3 and won their district championship.

When one talks about Roswell, the first subject that usually comes up is Oscar Vela.

The Coyotes scored a total of 61 goals on the regular season. Vela had a hand in 72 percent of those goals.

Vela, a junior forward for Roswell, is the most prolific scorer in the state of New Mexico. Vela finished the 2009 regular season with 35 goals, eight more than the next-closest scorer, as well as 9 assists.

Since his freshman season with the Coyotes, Vela has been at or very near the top of the AAAA ranks. His 79 points was four more points than Academy’s Darren McAfee for tops in the classification.

The top job for Los Alamos Thursday will be slowing Vela down. For Los Alamos, Chris Montoya will be assigned that task.

Montoya came into his own late in the season, helping to solidify a defense which allowed just one goal in eight District 2AAAA contests this season. He also had a quality outing Friday against Goddard, in which he broke up three potentially dangerous passes to the wing.

“Chris worked like crazy (Friday),” Hilltopper head coach Evan Gartz said following the opening round victory. “We rely on that, to have that engine back there…It’s so valuable to have someone like that back there.”

Should Montoya run into any trouble, Graham Delano, who last week was named District 2AAAA’s Player of the Year, will keep an eye on Vela as well.

Gartz said Vela actually isn’t all that active on the field. Vela tends to park somewhere in the middle of the Coyotes’ offensive side of the field and wait for kicks to come his way.

“If Chris gets the first step on him, we’ll be fine,” Gartz said.

Los Alamos had a tighter contest with Goddard Friday than the 3-0 score might indicate. Goddard had an apparent goal waved off on a tight offside call in the first half, and just missed on some other first half opportunities.

The Hilltoppers (15-6) didn’t break the game open until the waning minutes. Chase Havemann scored in the 67th minute and Nic Castaño sealed the victory with a goal in the 70th minute.

Davis Anson assisted Zeke Zumbro on one of the Hilltoppers’ best-looking goals of their season late in the first half to break the scoreless deadlock.

Los Alamos goes into Thursday’s game having won three in a row, giving up just one goal in those three outings. Roswell, meanwhile, has only lost one game since Sept. 5, that a district contest against Artesia, which was ousted from the state tournament this weekend by sixth-seeded Belen.

The winner of Thursday’s game will likely have to face Class AAAA’s 800-pound gorilla, St. Pius X. St. Pius has won the previous seven AAAA titles in a row and is the top seed in the tournament again this season.

The Hilltoppers faced St. Pius’ Sartans Oct. 13 in Albuquerque. The Sartans dominated that game, winning 5-1.

State Tournament Schedule


(1) St. Pius X vs. (8) Piedra Vista, 11:30 a.m.

(4) Roswell vs. (5) Los Alamos, 11:30 a.m.

(3) Farmington vs. (6) Belen, noon.

(2) Albuquerque Academy, vs. (7) Santa Teresa, noon.


St. Pius-Piedra Vista winner vs. Roswell-Los Alamos winner, 11 a.m.

Farmington-Belen winner vs. Academy-Santa Teresa winner, 11 a.m.


State championship game, 11 a.m.