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Hilltoppers roll to big win over Tigers at home, 8-0

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By Mike Cote

If the District 2AAAA opener is any indication, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team should be just fine in 2009.

Los Alamos scored a pair of goals just four minutes apart to take control of its district opener in the first half. Los Alamos would cruise to a big 8-0 win Tuesday at Sullivan Field.

The Hilltoppers made relatively easy work of the Taos Tigers, who could well be the second-best team in district this season, scoring four goals in each half despite rotating their bench  pretty liberally after assuming a 3-0 lead.

Amy Neal scored three times in the ballgame from her spot in the midfield. The freshman broke free on the right side and scored in the 21st minute, then added two more goals in the second half.

Los Alamos finished with 33 shots in Tuesday’s ballgame, 17 of those coming in the first half. Shaina Riciputi had a pair of goals in the first half and Saya Shimada scored twice in the second half to also aid the offensive effort.

Despite the lopsided win against Taos, Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek was only lukewarm about the effort.

“I think we played a slow pace,” Kubicek said. “Most of the goals we scored were on breakaways. We never got into a rhythm. Other than getting an 8-0 win, I think we could’ve played better soccer.”

Even if it wasn’t one of the Hilltoppers’ better games, it was still plenty good enough to confound the Tigers.

The Tigers simply had no answer for the Hilltoppers’ team speed. In the first half especially, the Hilltoppers were blowing straight through the Tigers’ back line at all angles.

Riciputi in particular, wasn’t being slowed down by the Tiger defense. Riciputi who has been moved up from Los Alamos’ defense in recent days to help add some punch to the Hilltopper attack, scored a goal in the 14th minute after handing out an assist to Shannon Blair for the first score of the game in the 10th minute.

Riciputi would add her second goal in the 26th minute streaking straight through the heart of the Taos defense, going down the left hashmark and putting a left-footer inside the near post past Tiger goalkeeper Melinda Young.

Just down the pitch, Taos didn’t make much headway trying to get through the midfield. Hilltoppers Kelsey and Amy Neal helped to nullify what few offensive pushes Taos could muster.

Kelsey Neal, a senior, said the team just wanted to earn a win in its 2AAAA debut and move on.

“This Taos team is better than they’ve been in years past,” she said. “We were kind of worried about that. We knew we had to come out hard.”

Since an uneven effort at the Albuquerque Academy Invitational about two weeks ago, the Hilltoppers (8-2 overall, 1-0 in 2AAAA) have been on a tear. The Hilltoppers picked up big wins over Academy and St. Pius X last week before Tuesday’s district-opening rout of the Tigers (6-4 overall, 0-1 in 2AAAA).

Los Alamos has a golden opportunity to put itself in the driver’s seat for the                                                                      No. 1 seed in the Class AAAA playoffs if it can knock off Volcano Vista, quite possibly its last major challenger to that top seed, on the road today.

“We can handle them,” Neal said. “We have to play our game and not come out slow. It would be a nice (win) to have.”

In the second half, Riciputi would tack on another assist, setting up Shimada’s second goal with a short header. Shimada, who has seen only limited action since suffering an ankle injury two weeks ago, took one dribble and knocked the ball past Young.

Young stayed busy throughout the game, stopping nine Hilltopper shots.

Amy Neal also scored twice in the second half, including the final score of the game in the 77th minute off an assist from Lindsay Benage.

“It was a big game,” Kubicek said. “I think they (the Tigers) will be a big challenger in district.”

 We’ll see. Hopefully, we’ll get through district healthy.”