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ALBUQUERQUE — In a contest mired by both the weather and controversy, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team was downed by the St. Pius X Sartans Friday afternoon.
Friday’s contest at Sartan Field pitted the two top-ranked teams in the state against one another, the Hilltoppers coming in as the No. 1 team in Class 4A and the Sartans No. 2.
But midway through the second half, St. Pius got a quick-strike goal following a throw-in. Los Alamos’ Cassidy Reeves purposely booted a ball out of bounds after a player got injured on the field.
The custom in soccer is, in that circumstance, the opposing team returns the ball to the team that kicked the ball out of bounds. St. Pius, however, used the opportunity to attack the Hilltopper goal and scored in the 56th minute.
St. Pius would tack on a second goal in the 64th minute, converting a penalty kick. St. Pius would go on to pick up the 2-0 victory.
The game ended with the coaches on both sides snapping at each other over St. Pius’ first goal – returning the ball in that instance is customary and considered good sportsmanship but is not a rule.
The Hilltoppers were clearly frustrated following the loss.
“I’m proud of our team,” said Hilltopper forward Amy Neal, who was kicked in the left knee and had to leave the game for about 10 minutes in the second half. “We did so well and we had so much heart. I believe that we had this game. Their coach encouraged this and it makes us mad.”
The Sartans (10-3) are among the most bitter rivals of the Hilltoppers to begin with and have had numerous spats with Los Alamos in several sports. Friday’s contest only added fuel to an already stoked fire.
Regardless of how the remainder of the regular season shakes out, there is a chance the teams will meet again in the Class 4A playoffs.
“We started slow, but we played well,” Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek said. “We made a couple of mistakes, but in a game like this, we can’t be naïve.”
St. Pius controlled possession for most of the contest Friday. On the rain-soaked field, St. Pius looked to be a step quicker for much of the opening half, getting off four shots in 16 minutes before Los Alamos (12-5) could get its offense on track.
Los Alamos showed some signs of life late in the half, putting together a couple of good combinations near the St. Pius net, but a couple of quick shots near the 30-minute mark were blocked by St. Pius fullbacks before reaching the goal mouth.
At the 56-minute mark in the second half, St. Pius took advantage of the purposeful out-of-bounds kick, catching Los Alamos’ defense out of position. Madison Clark drove down the left side of the field, then scooted a pass to Emma Durkin who kicked it into a wide-open net.
In the 64th minute, Hilltopper goalkeeper Bryce Theesfeld was called for tripping Durkin in the penalty box after she had gone well out of goal to try to cut Durkin’s attack from the right side off. Gabrielle Campbell converted the penalty kick.
Los Alamos got off just five shots in the game and only one in the second half.