Girls soccer: LA wins two at Academy

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By Mike Cote

With the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team in a scoring funk, head coach Jiri Kubicek is hoping a couple of good solid offensive outings will help set things straight.

Those came in the final two games of the weekend.

Los Alamos scored a combined eight goals in Friday’s and Saturday’s contests en route to a fifth-place finish at the Albuquerque Academy Invitational.

The Hilltoppers started the tournament Thursday with a disappointing shootout loss to the Las Cruces Bulldawgs despite setting itself up with several good scoring chances in the second half and in overtime. The Hilltoppers outshot the Bulldawgs 23-15 in the contest, 9-4 in overtime, but couldn’t connect on a goal.

There was still issues finishing Friday, but Maneesha Chitanvis would knock in a pair of goals to help Los Alamos to a 2-0 victory over the Hope Christian Huskies in the consolation semifinals.

“We dominated the game from the beginning and we had so many opportunities, but we didn’t put it in,” Kubicek said.

But Chitanvis, Los Alamos’ leading scorer on the young season, had a goal in each half to break a two-game scoreless streak and her team’s two-game losing streak.

That wouldn’t be the last Chitanvis would be heard from in the tournament, either.

In the fifth-place game against Mayfield, Chitanvis pulled off the hat trick, getting plenty of help from Summer Shelley, who helped set Chitanvis’ first goal.

Midfielder Kelsey Neal, who was feeling under the weather in the Las Cruces game, earned a pair of goals against Mayfield. One of Neal’s goals was assisted by Chitanvis, who put a nice cross to Neal’s head and she promptly banged it in.

Kubicek said he was surprised Los Alamos was able to knock off Mayfield by a lopsided score of 6-0, especially considering that the Trojans had upended a solid Farmington squad 3-0 a day earlier.

Against Mayfield, the offense was doing a lot of things well, something Los Alamos has been looking for since the first game of the year.

“There was really nice passing,” Kubicek said. “We moved the ball well and we got good support. We talked to the defense and had them push up quicker on the attack.”

One of the adjustments Kubicek made after Thursday’s loss was to put Chitanvis at attacking halfback and put Saya Shimada and Asli Unal on the front. The idea was to get the speedy senior in on the attack without having her heavily marked.

That adjustment was obviously working.

Defensively, Los Alamos had a big showing throughout the tournament, allowing no goals except the three goals Las Cruces scored in the shootout.

Jenny Tumas, who had a solid outing against Las Cruces — she stopped one of the Bulldawgs’ penalty kick attempts to keep her team from falling behind 2-0 in the shootout — has only allowed one non-shootout goal on the year.

Laura Nelson, Shaina Riciputi and Kaitlin Schramm, Los Alamos’ fullbacks, also had good showings throughout the tournament.

Kubicek said he was impressed with Neal’s ability to come back from her illness in the midfield and Heather Walters and Keyla Tumas had strong showings throughout the tournament as well.

Los Alamos will have one of its key match-ups of the nondistrict season Tuesday when it faces Academy’s Chargers.

The Chargers (6-2) were knocked off in the tournament semifinals by Sandia Prep, but finished in third place with a 3-1 win over Las Cruces Saturday.

Earlier this season, the Chargers beat perennial contender St. Pius X 1-0. A win over the Hilltoppers would put them in the driver’s seat in securing a top seed for the Class AAAA playoffs in November.

“They’ll play us like always,” Kubicek said. “They always try to come out physical and scare us, but that’s not going to work. They’ll play the long ball, they’ll counter-attack and try to beat us on our mistakes.

“If we’re patient and we work the ball, I think we have a good chance of beating them,” he said.