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ALBUQUERQUE — The fatigue factor might have finally caught up with the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team.
The Volcano Vista Hawks certainly caught up with and passed the Hilltoppers Wednesday.
Los Alamos struggled from first whistle to last whistle Wednesday against Volcano Vista, an up-and-coming soccer program which is playing its second and final season in Class AAAA before it makes the leap to Class 5A next year.
The Hawks were dominant on both ends of the field and ground out two second half goals to win 2-0.
Los Alamos got nothing going offensively other than a few late pushes after Ashley Williams’ goal in the 65th minute, but it was too little, too late.
“We never showed up to play,” Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek said. “We were sloppy (Tuesday) and we continued that. We can’t play that way. We didn’t put in a lot of effort and we can’t do that against a good team.”
The loss puts Los Alamos at 2-1 against the other three teams in the state that might have a legitimate claim to the No. 1 seed when the Class AAAA playoff brackets are announced.
Volcano Vista, Albuquerque Academy and St. Pius X, along with Los Alamos, would seem to have the best argument for the top AAAA ranking by most standards. Those teams will very likely be given the top four seeds in some order after the regular season dust settles.
Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, the way their schedule worked out, they faced all three of those teams in a span of just eight days. They topped Academy in a comeback thriller Sept. 15, then turned around to top St. Pius on penalty kicks just four days later.
In any event, though, the Hawks simply outhustled the Hilltoppers on both ends. The Hawks won almost all the balls kicked into the air Wednesday and their defense, spearheaded by sweeper Schylar Malone, didn’t allow one Hilltopper shot until the 62nd minute.
Kubicek said that outside of fullbacks Laura Nelson and Shaina Riciputi and midfielder Kelsey Neal, his team’s effort simply wasn’t there.
Riciputi, who is quickly turning into one of the top players in Class AAAA, took a beating Wednesday and had to sit out for several minutes in the second half after getting inadvertently kicked in the shin.
Despite Volcano Vista thoroughly dominating the first half of play, the game was scoreless at the break. Kubicek said he was hoping his team would turn things around in the second half much like it did against Academy.
After the break, however, it was mostly a replay of the first half.
The Hawks would break the scoreless tie in the 47th minute. The Hawks sent nine players toward the Hilltopper goal in an attempt to get on the board, including Malone, who got free on the right side.
Malone tracked down a bouncing ball about 15 yards out and dumped a short centering pass to Samantha Sandoval who banged inside the right post to give Volcano Vista the lead.
At that point in the contest, Volcano Vista (7-2) had outshot Los Alamos 12-0.
Williams’ score made it 2-0. Just three minutes after the second goal, Volcano Vista had a chance to tack on an insurance goal, but Sandoval’s apparent goal was negated by a questionable offside whistle.
Hilltopper netminder Jenny Tumas stayed busy Wednesday, stopping six shots-on-goal.
The two teams had met only once before. Los Alamos (8-3) dropped Volcano Vista, a new school on the extreme west side of Albuquerque, in the semifinals of the 2008 state tournament, prevailing in that contest 3-1.
While the Hilltoppers were hoping to escape Wednesday with a win, which would’ve have very possibly sewn up that top seed in the 2009 AAAA draw, Kubicek said there wasn’t any reason to panic just yet.
“We wanted to win this game, but one or two games are not going to make any difference,” he said. “And the way we played, we did not deserve to win.”
Regardless of whether the Hawks make a run in state this season, they will very likely be a factor at the 5A level. Volcano Vista has no senior class and will theoretically have every member of its team back for the 2010 season.
Los Alamos was ranked No. 1 in the state according to the Web site NMSoccer.com last week — voting participation for girls 4A has been very light this season — while Volcano Vista finished No. 3 in that same coaches’ poll.