Girls soccer: Toppers fall again in shootout

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By Mike Cote

Another shootout, another shootout loss.

Los Alamos and St. Pius X, two of the premier programs in Class AAAA, met for a nondistrict girls soccer tilt Saturday at Sullivan Field.

Although Los Alamos was well in control of Saturday’s game, St. Pius converted a penalty kick late in regulation and sent the game into a shootout. In the shootout, Los Alamos misfired on three of four attempts and St. Pius picked up the 3-1 shootout victory.

It was the third time this season the Hilltoppers have had to go to penalty kicks to decide a game they had numerous opportunities of winning in regulation.

And it was the third shootout loss.

“It’s starting to take its toll,” Hilltopper fullback Laura Nelson said following the game. “It’s really difficult going to a shootout…it’s something we have to practice. Hopefully, we’ll start getting the ball into the net and we won’t have to go to a shootout.”

The Hilltoppers outshot St. Pius’ Sartans 20-12 in the contest, putting 8 shots-on-goal. Only one of those went in during regulation, however.

“The whole season, that’s the way we’ve played,” Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek said. “We did that against Academy, Las Cruces. We dominate the game, then we go to penalty kicks.”

In shootout chances, Los Alamos is just 3-for-12 (25 percent).

Saturday, only Kelsey Neal converted her penalty kick chance.

Neal was the second Hilltopper to take a penalty kick. She converted to give her team a 1-0 lead in the shootout.

Asli Unal, shooting first for the Hilltoppers, had her kick blocked by St. Pius’ Caitlin Boal. However, Los Alamos goalkeeper Jenny Tumas stuffed a ground ball from Lauren Shull to keep St. Pius from taking an early shootout lead.

The Sartans would convert three shots in a row following the initial stop, however, while Los Alamos would miss its final two chances.

Los Alamos’ lone goal of regulation came in the 66th minute when Amelia Weaver ran down a long pass downfield from Neal. Boal came out of goal to meet Weaver, but Weaver beat Boal to the ball and lined a shot inside the right post.

Weaver’s goal gave Los Alamos a 1-0 edge.

Throughout most of Saturday’s contest, St. Pius had been playing as many as eight around its goal.

St. Pius (3-5), which has won four straight state titles since Los Alamos’ last title in 2003, has struggled on the 2008 season so far, particularly on defense.

Los Alamos, meanwhile, has been stellar on defense this season but hasn’t found goals on the other end.

Tumas was credited with three saves Saturday. St. Pius got just three shots off in the two overtime periods, all of them well off-target.

The Sartans tied the score nine minutes later on a late run. In the 75th minute, Nelson got tangled up with Shull in the penalty box, and the Sartans were awarded a penalty kick. Senior fullback Abigail Tarin converted the shot to tie the score.

Prior to that, Los Alamos had gotten about a dozen good looks at the St. Pius goal, including three 1-on-1 chances that came up empty.

“If you don’t score, you don’t win, it’s that simple,” Kubicek said. “We’ve been working on it...we played a great game, it was a great team effort, but that’s how it goes.”

It was the fifth time this season Los Alamos (6-4) had been held to one goal or less.

In this nondistrict season, the Hilltoppers lost to both top AAAA teams, Academy — a 2-0 loss in Albuquerque Tuesday — and the Sartans.

Los Alamos could’ve all but cemented a No. 2 seed at state with a win Saturday, but as such will probably slip down to third when the seedings are released just prior to the start of the playoffs in early November.

The Hilltoppers had to play Saturday without their top scorer, Maneesha Chitanvis, who was on a college visit. Chitanvis is second in total points in Class AAAA with 29 (12 goals, 3 assists), just two points behind Del Norte’s Jamie Fletcher.

Los Alamos was hoping it could win without her and had ample opportunity to do so.

“We played well as a team,” Nelson said. “We just have to get to the point where we get the ball into the net.”