Girls soccer: Toppers face tough test in state quarterfinal

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By Mike Cote

For a team struggling to put balls into the net, Saturday’s win over the Kirtland Central Broncos couldn’t have come at a better time for the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team.
However, goal scoring was one of the main problems the Hilltoppers encountered early this season in a loss to Farmington.
But now, the Hilltoppers will have a chance to do what they failed to do earlier this season. They will face the Farmington Scorpions in the quarterfinal round of the Class AAAA playoffs noon Thursday at the Albuquerque Public Schools Soccer Complex.
Los Alamos, the sixth-seed in the 2010 playoffs, was shut out in its third contest of the season at Farmington. Farmington didn’t score in the game either, but won the shootout between the two teams Aug. 28 to take a 1-0 victory.
The third-seeded Scorpions finished as the District 1AAAA runner-up this season behind Aztec. Aztec, the second seed in the tournament, would very likely be Los Alamos’ next opponent in the state playoffs, the third straight team from the Four Corners district in the playoffs and the fourth in a row counting the final game of the regular season.
Against the Broncos Saturday, Los Alamos’ offense caught fire, picking up a 6-0 victory to advance to Thursday’s quarterfinal.
Los Alamos sophomore Amy Neal, who has been the team’s most productive offensive player throughout 2010, tallied three goals in the victory.
“We’ve been having trouble scoring and we’ve been working on our 1-on-1s,” said Neal, whose goals all came on 1-on-1 chances. “We’ve been working on those all season.”
While the Hilltoppers (12-9) may have started a good thing against Kirtland Central offensively, they will be facing a stingy Scorpions defense which allowed just 16 goals this season, 10 of those coming in two games against Albuquerque and Albuquerque Academy.
The Scorpions (14-4) shut out 12 opponents this season, including Aztec and St. Michael’s, along with the Hilltoppers. Their goalkeeper, Taylor Dexel, finished with a goals-against average of 1.17.
On the flip side, Farmington didn’t blow many circuits on its scoreboard, either. It was paced this season by Morgan Eddy. Eddy finished with 13 goals and three assists.
Farmington had just one other player, MacKenzie Pavlik, finish with more than 20 points (10 goals, three assists).
The Hilltoppers are going into the quarterfinal on a 6-game win streak, including two big wins over St. Michael’s and Aztec to end the regular season. They have scored 26 goals during that time — the victory over Aztec was in a shootout — and allowed just two.
They’re hoping their current mojo will hold up through Thursday and beyond.
“I think we need to just play like we know how to play,” Los Alamos fullback Cassidy Reeves said following the victory over Kirtland Central. “The last time we played them was unfortunate.”
The top seed in the tournament, Academy (18-2), has been dominant this season.
The Chargers have scored big victories over Los Alamos and Farmington this season, as well as topping arch-rival St. Pius and all other Class AAAA rivals — both its losses in 2010 came against top-shelf Class 5A schools.
The Chargers beat Los Alamos in each of the last two state championship games, snapping a four-year win streak by St. Pius in 2008.
Los Alamos last won the state title in 2003.