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BERNALILLO — Starting the offense wasn’t the problem. Closing the deal was.
At the end of a first half that was completely dominated by the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team, the Hilltoppers had nothing to show for it. They would pay in the second half for being unable to finish what they’d started in the first half.
Albuquerque Academy’s Bridget Hill scored the only goal of the Class AAAA girls soccer state championship in the latter part of the second half to give Academy’s Chargers a 1-0 win.
It was a surprising end of the season for Los Alamos, which was in total control of Friday’s night’s championship game, played at the State Farm Soccer Complex. Los Alamos allowed the Chargers just two shots the entire game.
Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, that was one more shot than the Chargers needed.
“We had problems finishing, but they didn’t have any chances,” Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek said following the contest. “They had one shot, we dropped the ball and they scored.”
The lone tally of the contest came in the 67th minute, a wild series that occurred in front of the Los Alamos goal in what was an otherwise largely uneventful second half.
Academy was awarded a direct kick about 40 yards away from the Hilltopper goal. Charger midfielder Riah Risk, who had the game-winning goal for the Chargers in their 2007 state semifinal game against the Hilltoppers, belted the direct kick straight at the Los Alamos goal.
The kick hit Hilltopper goalkeeper Jenny Tumas hard right in the breadbasket, but the ball squirted out of Tumas’ arms and to the ground. As Tumas dove to retrieve the loose ball, she was beaten to it by a sliding Hill, who knocked it inside the right post for what would be the game- and title-clinching score.
Members of the Chargers, the top-seeded team in the state tournament, doused their fans with sparkling apple juice in celebration following their first state title since 2002.
“Two years ago, we were third, and last year we were second,” Academy head coach Pete Clinch said. “This is great.”
To get to the final, Academy outlasted four-time defending AAAA champ St. Pius X 1-0 in Thursday’s semifinal. In the other AAAA semifinal, Los Alamos scored a pair of goals early in the second half to upset No. 2 Volcano Vista 3-1.
In the first half, it looked like Los Alamos would keep its offensive mojo going and ride it to a state title.
Maneesha Chitanvis, Class AAAA’s leading scorer who had turned in monster performances during the postseason, was running roughshod over the Academy back line in the opening half. Chitanvis fired off three shots, two of them after dribbling straight through the heart of the Academy defense.
Of the eight goals Los Alamos scored in pool play last week and Thursday’s semifinal, Chitanvis was credited with the goal or the assist on seven of them.
The Academy defense also struggled trying to slow Saya Shimada, who crashed in several times from the wing in the first half.
“I think we’re the better team,” Kubicek said. “Even against the wind, we had chances, but we needed to put them in the net.”
For the contest, Los Alamos outshot Academy 9-2.
“At the half, I told (the Chargers) ‘you can’t play any worse than you just played,’” Clinch said. “We made some adjustments, the kids responded well. I told them that we just needed to get one goal, and I thought the game was over.”
Wosick finished with three saves, while Tumas had one.
Los Alamos ends its season with a final record of 18-6, with three of those losses coming against Academy and St. Pius.
It was the final game in the prep careers of Chitanvis, Jaime Benage, Amanda Branch, Lynnea Freer, Kaitlin Schramm, Keyla Tumas, Asli Unal and Heather Walters.