Hilltoppers, Jaguars face off for district title

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By Mike Cote

It might have been the defining play of the 2011 season for the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys soccer team. It was certainly the most significant.


With the District 2-4A championship on the line, the Capital Jaguars' main offensive threat, Jason Alarcon beat the Hilltopper defense to a long through-ball. Backpedaling to intercept Alarcon was Henry Steinkamp while coming forward full throttle was Los Alamos goalkeeper Lorenzo Venneri.

The two never saw each other and Venneri plowed into Steinkamp, allowing not only the goal that would ultimately give the Jaguars the tiebreaker for the district title, it would dislocate Steinkamp's shoulder, knocking him out of the playoffs two weeks later.

Today, the Hilltoppers will head back to Jaguar Field in a very similar position. Except, in 2012, it's the Hilltoppers in second place looking up to the Jaguars, who defeated the Hilltoppers at Sullivan Field earlier this month.

The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. It's the regular season finale for Los Alamos.

Los Alamos will have to beat Capital, which is a perfect 8-0 at home this year, to have a shot at the district title.

Steinkamp, the engine that makes the Hilltoppers go, has had an outstanding senior year. All he's worried about, he said, is picking up a victory.

"I want to win," he said. "I haven't even thought of the collision. It's soccer. Those things happen."

The two teams met Oct. 6, with the Jaguars picking up a 1-0 victory.

Due to an interesting scheduling decision, the Hilltoppers elected to play two highly-ranked Class 5A teams, Volcano Vista and Sandia, in the four days leading up to their first meeting with the Jaguars — the Sandia game was the day before the Capital game.

Los Alamos plodded through the Capital contest. Capital, which was considerably fresher and quicker, beat Los Alamos to the vast majority of 50-50 balls in the midfield and limited Los Alamos to just one shot on goal.

Capital's Luis Rios-Olivas, his team's leading scorer, picked the lone goal of the contest late in the first half from 25-yards out.

Today, Los Alamos will be going in fresher — it's had only one game in the last six days, Saturday's victory over Piedra Vista — and will be well prepared.'

"This last week, everything we've done in practice, these games, they've been a build-up for that game on Tuesday," Hilltopper head coach Evan Gartz said following Saturday's win.

Capital (14-2 overall, 4-0 in 2-4A) was among the top-scoring teams in 4A last year, but hasn't generated those types of offensive numbers this year.

To compensate, however, Capital has become a very stout defense. It has allowed just 10 goals on the season, four of those coming against St. Michael's in late August. Since then, it has pitched eight shutouts and goalkeeper Kevin Gomez is among the stingiest backstops in the state, giving up just .638 goals per game.

Gartz said the Hilltoppers (12-7, 4-1) can boost their playoff stock considerably with a district title. He said getting the No. 2 seed would not be out of the realm of possibility if they can clinch the 2-4A championship.

"We have to be more patient on defense," Gartz said. "They like to shoot. They like quick passes…On offense, we have to play well on the wings. Without Dallin (Parker), it's going to hurt us."

Heading into today, Los Alamos has won three straight games four of its last five — the loss was the Capital game — including shutout wins against Piedra Vista and Bernalillo.

Steinkamp and Ryan Maestas both have 35 points on the season to lead the team. Collin Stone, who has been asked to take on a bigger role in the absence of the injured Parker, has 21 points.