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Girl’s soccer picks up dramatic OT win

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By Phil Scherer

All season long, senior Alix Hailey has been an offensive force for the Los Alamos High School varsity girl’s soccer team.

Tuesday night at Sullivan Field, she added another moment to her highlight reel, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime, as the Hilltoppers defeated Hope Christian High School 1-0.

This was an especially meaningful game for LAHS. Earlier this season, Hope Christian defeated the Hilltoppers 3-2 during the Albuquerque Academy Tournament, one of just three losses LAHS has collected so far this year.

Head coach Ann Cernicek said that her team was able to avoid mistakes in this game that cost them dearly in the first matchup.

“Two of the goals Hope Christian scored in the tournament were off of a corner kick and a free kick, and we didn’t give those things up tonight,” Cernicek said.

In fact, it seemed like both teams were trying their hardest to avoid giving up those set pieces throughout regulation, knowing how potent both offenses can be when given free chances.

Because of that, the majority of the play took place in the middle of the field throughout the night, with the defenses preventing strong scoring chances on either side.

The best early scoring chance came from Hope Christian in the 11th minute, as a shot from 10 yards away glanced off the crossbar and over the net, which caused the home crowd to gasp, then exhale, in unison.

Throughout the first half, LAHS goalkeeper Ashley Atencio proved to be the most valuable player on the field, collecting 10 saves in the first 40 minutes to keep the game scoreless. She made 14 total saves in the game.

“Ashley had a super game in the back for us,” Cernicek said. “She has really been coming on and she is doing a lot of things right.”

The best scoring opportunity for the Hilltoppers came in the 47th minute, as Katie Hopkins made a great move to evade defenders near the net, but was resistant to shoot the ball. By the time, she released the shot, the goalkeeper had moved over and was able to make a diving stop.

The second half was littered with offside calls and other violations, as neither team was able to get any type of rhythm going.

The back lines of both teams were playing extremely well, as scoring opportunities were hard to come by.

With the score 0-0 after 80 minutes of regulation time, the game headed to overtime. In high school soccer, overtime is split up into two 10-minute periods. The first team to score wins.

As the teams prepared for overtime, there was a noticeable energy boost coming from the Hilltoppers sideline. They chanted loudly before heading back onto the field, and were jumping around in anticipation before kicking the ball off to begin overtime.

The energy paid off immediately, as LAHS moved the ball right down the field and into the scoring area. The ball came to Hailey 20 yards away from the goal and she did not hesitate, firing the ball over the outreached grasp of the Hope Christian goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

The game ended 1-0 in favor of the Hilltoppers just 45 seconds into overtime.

“What I really like about the performance is that we didn’t let a goal in,” Cernicek said. “We had a lot of opportunities and I knew that eventually something was going to give.”

With the win, the Hilltoppers improve to 9-3 this season. After playing in the Sandia Prep High School Tournament this weekend, the team will return home on Sept. 30 to begin district play against Del Norte High School.