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The Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team split its final two contests of this weekend’s Albuquerque Academy Invitational tournament.
Los Alamos played a pair of games Saturday at the tournament, hosted by the Academy Chargers. Friday afternoon’s scheduled game against Rio Rancho was postponed due to lightning less than a minute in.
In Saturday’s makeup contest — the halves of which were shortened from the usual 40 minutes to 30 minutes to accommodate all the tournament’s postponements — the Hilltoppers scored in the first half against Rio Rancho’s Rams and made that goal stand up a 1-0 victory.
In the tournament’s fifth-place contest Saturday afternoon, Las Cruces returned the favor, making a first half goal stand up to win 1-0.
Despite the loss, which knocked Los Alamos down to sixth place in the eight-team tournament, Hilltopper head coach Jiri Kubicek said he was far happier with Saturday’s effort than he was with Thursday’s opening round, in which Los Alamos was doubled-up by Sandia Prep, 4-2, knocking the Hilltoppers into the consolation bracket.
“We had a good talk with the kids after the loss to Sandia Prep,” Kubicek said. “We came to play (Saturday). We were ready and we didn’t give them any chances.”
Against Rio Rancho, Los Alamos allowed the Rams just 4 shots-on-goal. The Hilltopper defense, which couldn’t shake the rust off through the duration of the Sandia Prep contest, was back to its usual shutdown self against Rio Rancho.
Los Alamos got off 8 shots in the contest, which was played largely in the middle of the field.
“It was 100 percent better,” Kubicek said. “We didn’t let them get through and we kept our shape. We kept in a good zone and we didn’t let them do anything.”
In the 13th minute, Summer Shelley deflected in a low corner kick by Madison Ahlers for the only tally of the game.
Saturday afternoon’s game against Las Cruces’ Bulldawgs didn’t start off as well for the Hilltoppers as Saturday morning’s had. Las Cruces was the aggressor throughout the first half. Los Alamos turned the momentum around quickly in the second half but couldn’t connect on some quality opportunities.
The Bulldawgs scored what would be the game-winner 18 minutes in. Hilltopper goalkeeper Jenny Tumas went up high for an attempt from 30 yards out but couldn’t pull the ball down and it slipped through her hands into the goal.
Kubicek moved sweeper Shaina Riciputi to the midfield in the second half to try to create some offense and attempt to tie the score.
Los Alamos had two 1-on-1 chances with Las Cruces goalkeeper Nikki Rosales but Rosales stopped both attempts. Another second half shot attempt clanked off the crossbar.
Los Alamos sits at 5-2 on the young season and hasn’t allowed a goal in any of its five victories.
Kubicek said he was happy to play against three quality squads at the Academy tournament — Sandia Prep is the top small-school in New Mexico, while both Las Cruces and Rio Rancho are polling in the top five in Class 5A.
There won’t be a lot of down time from now on, however. Los Alamos hadn’t played in 2-1/2 weeks before Thursday’s game, but now must gear up for a visit from the Chargers Tuesday.
The Chargers (6-2) thumped Sandia Prep 4-1 in the tournament finale Saturday afternoon. The Chargers are the defending Class AAAA champions, beating the Hilltoppers 1-0 in the state title game last November.