Girls soccer: LA thumps Taos on road

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By Mike Cote

TAOS — It might have started out like a Chamber of Commerce-type day in Taos County, but skies got gray in a hurry for the Taos Tiger girls soccer team Tuesday.

By the time the wind kicked up and the clouds rolled in after the halftime break, the Los Alamos Hilltoppers had a big cushion they would add to throughout the second half.

The Hilltoppers thumped the Tigers 8-0 at Anaya Field to keep their District 2AAAA record a spotless 3-0 with just one team remaining to be seen.

On the 2AAAA season so far, the Hilltoppers have beaten the Tigers, Capital’s Jaguars and Española Valley’s Sundevils by a combined 29-0. Heading into the district season, goals had been at premium for Los Alamos.

“It’s a good confidence boost, I guess,” Hilltopper forward Asli Unal said following Tuesday’s win. “But we can’t let this go to our heads because playing Taos isn’t like playing (St.) Pius.”

Los Alamos didn’t waste much time taking control Tuesday, scoring in the first minute and the eighth minute. It would score twice more in the half, three of the four goals coming on similar centering passes.

Saya Shimada, who has come up big for the Hilltoppers in recent contests, picked up a hat trick in the first half and assisted Unal with her first minute goal.

Shimada, who had a goal and two assists Saturday against Capital, finished with four goals and an assist.

Unal had a pair of goals, as did Kelsey Neal in the rout of what was expected to be one of the tougher 2AAAA opponents Los Alamos would face in 2008. The only district team Los Alamos hasn't yet faced is its next opponent, Bernalillo (4-6-1), which actually had the district's second-best won-loss record at the start of 2AAAA competition.

That doesn't mean the Hilltoppers are more wary of Bernalillo's Spartans than their other district foes, however.

"The district is going to be easy all the way through," Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek said, noting that the Spartans had been 10-goaled by Hope Christian, a team Los Alamos shut out at the Albuquerque Academy Invitational in mid-September. "St. Michael's and La Cueva in a few weeks will bring us back to reality, because those games aren't going to be easy."

The Hilltoppers like to schedule tougher contests late in the season to try to get back up to speed in preparation for the postseason. Barring a spectacular collapse, the Hilltoppers will win the district and possibly do so without surrendering a goal.

Los Alamos found its forwards in all the right places Tuesday. Shimada hit a centering pass about five yards from the mouth of the goal to Unal, who hit a line drive past Taos goalkeeper Callie Benjamin for the first score.

Maneesha Chitanvis, who was hurt in the 16th minute attempting a centering pass from the end line, assisted Shimada with her first goal in the eighth minute. Keyla Tumas would find Shimada in the center of the field near the goal mouth in the 11th minute.

Shimada beat backup goalkeeper Melinda Young to a through-ball, hitting a shot that deflected off Young’s hands and just over the goal line before another Taos defender could run it down.

Chitanvis, who has been banged up for much of the season, returned to the game before the end of the half and played most of the rest of the contest.

Neal scored back-to-back goals in the second half, one off assists from Shimada and Neal on a corner kick and the other converting a penalty kick after she was fouled deep in Taos territory.

For the game, the Hilltoppers (9-4 overall) outshot the Tigers (4-6) 44-2 Tuesday, 28-1 in the second half.

Despite the dominance, the Hilltoppers were little more than lukewarm about the showing.

"It's hard to play well during these games," Unal said. "They're fun, you win a lot, you get your stats boosted, but it's hard to stay focused."

Kubicek said he was happy to see some solid passing throughout Tuesday's contest and was hoping his offense would keep it up for the rest of the season.

Los Alamos has now won three straight and four of its last five. It will be off for the next week before it faces Bernalillo Oct. 7.

Jenny Tumas and Lauren Charsley-Groffman split time in goal Tuesday. Charsley-Groffman handled the only shot-on-goal Taos managed, that coming in the 75th minute.