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It’s been a long time coming.
For the first time since 2004, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys soccer team is the champion of the Louie Cernicek Invitational Tournament.
The Hilltoppers survived many a scare in the first half of Saturday night’s championship game at Sullivan Field to top the Belen Eagles. The Hilltoppers scored a pair of goals midway through the second half and rolled to a 3-1 victory.
Los Alamos came out on top of the eight-team tournament, which started Friday morning, rolling to a big 10-0 win over Aztec in the opening round then picking up a decisive 3-0 win over Los Lunas in the semifinal to advance to the championship round.
The Hilltoppers rarely do particularly well in the Cernicek Invitational, which was held for the 14th consecutive season. This year, in fact, was only the second time in four years that the Hilltoppers had even gotten as far as the championship game, a rarity for most tournament hosts in any sport.
“It was one of our goals this year,” Hilltopper forward Chase Havemann said. “We haven’t won since 2004, but I like the fact we haven’t won since 2004. This is the team that finally won it.”
Havemann scored twice in the Hilltoppers’ semifinal victory over the Los Lunas Tigers to help put the team into the 2010 championship contest.
The tournament was a costly one for the Hilltoppers, however, who lost star fullback Graham Delano in the Aztec victory with an ankle injury.
Delano, the reigning District 2AAAA Player of the Year, is scheduled to have his ankle checked out early this week. The extent of the injury, or how much time he might miss, is unknown.
In fact, Los Alamos had to play Saturday’s final without its usual defensive starters. Along with Delano and Matt Leslie, also out with an injury, Zeke Zumbro was hit with a red card in the semifinal contest and was unavailable for the championship game.
But Hilltopper head coach Evan Gartz said the team was able to adjust well. In fact, reserve fullback Alex Kendrick was named the tournament’s defensive Most Valuable Player.