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Throughout the 2010 regular season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team has been looking to up its offensive output.
That wasn’t a problem in the first round of the playoffs.
Hosting the opening round contest of the Class AAAA championship tournament, the Hilltoppers had one of their most aggressive offensive games of the season, not to mention one of their most efficient. They connected on four of five shots-on-goal in the first half as they routed the Kirtland Central Broncos 6-0 at Sullivan Field.
Amy Neal scored twice on nearly identical runs on the right side in the first half, slicing through the Kirtland Central defense and then putting two shots to the far post to give Los Alamos a quick 2-0 edge less than 16 minutes into the contest.
Those two goals, coming within about 45 seconds of each other, took the Broncos out of the ballgame quickly and, except for a short spurt after the Hilltoppers had the contest well in-hand, the Broncos never recovered.
Despite the lopsided victory, Los Alamos wasn’t about to look past Kirtland Central, while not known as a soccer powerhouse, is a school as rich in athletic talent as any in Class AAAA.
“We definitely were not taking this game easily,” said Neal, who finished with a hat trick Saturday. “We can’t act like this is an easy game. We put all our heart into it and it showed.”
Kirtland Central (9-11) came out early trying to employ the offside trap against Los Alamos. While the Bronco defense had some success with it early, it only took a few minutes for Los Alamos to adjust and make some lightning fast runs near the sidelines.
The Bronco defense simply had no answer for Neal, who blew right through in no small part because the Broncos were often stationed very near the midline at the start.
The offside trap is a staple of the teams from the Four Corners area — Kirtland Central is located almost due west of Farmington — and Los Alamos was well aware of that fact heading in.
“I talked to the girls and told them they had to be smart,” Los Alamos veteran head coach Jiri Kubicek said of trying to work against a trapping defense. “The communication was good…even our substitutes were putting pressure on them. It was a good win.”
In the 17th minute, immediately following Neal’s two first half goals, Lindsay Benage crushed a shot after a bouncing ball was corralled by Shannon Blair then tapped over to her about eight yards away from the Bronco goal.
While Kirtland Central goalkeeper Jennifer Hastings dove after Benage’s shot, she had no chance at it.
Late in the half, Stephanie Blair, who along with the rest of Los Alamos’ back third had a stellar performance, connected on a wild bouncing corner kick to put the Hilltoppers up 4-0. Neal scored her third 1-on-1 chance early in the second half and Elena Atencio headed in a direct kick from Blair late in the contest.
Los Alamos, the sixth seed in the tournament, will now advance to the quarterfinal round of the tournament where it will face a familiar opponent in Farmington. Farmington, the tournament’s third seed, topped Los Alamos on penalty kicks in an early season contest.
“The seeding as how it turned out for us was disappointing, but we have a clear chance to get to the championship,” Hilltopper Cassidy Reeves said. “We’ll move on from here.”