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Going into Tuesday afternoon’s game at Sullivan Field, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys soccer team knew that to keep pace in the district race, the Santa Fe Demons would need an upset.
But other than a push toward the end of the second half, the Demons wouldn’t get much of an opportunity for that upset they needed.
Los Alamos played a solid, ball-control game, something that has been a little hard to come by this season, as it had the Santa Fe defense and midfield scrambling to keep up.
Meanwhile, Hilltopper forward Collin Stone, who gave Santa Fe fits in the teams’ first outing Sept. 28, picked up right where he left off, tallying two goals as the Hilltoppers won by a comfortable 3-0 margin Tuesday.
For Los Alamos, the win was a matter of keeping the ball away from the Demons, particularly their scoring crew up top.
“We were trying to move the ball instead of clearing it,” said Los Alamos’ Skyler Veenis, who was a big part of the defensive effort that earned the team’s first shutout of the year.
“We were trying to work from the defense to the midfield and get our looks there.”
With the win, Los Alamos (9-9 overall, 4-1 in 2-4A play) now awaits a big showdown with Capital for the district title. Capital, which is undefeated in district play, won the first go-round between the two 1-0 in Santa Fe earlier this month, but the Hilltoppers have high hopes for the rematch Oct. 22.
In order to stay in the mix for a potential district title, Santa Fe (9-9 overall, 2-2 in 2-4A) needed a win, but struggled to keep up with the Hilltoppers.
Employing a very efficient passing game, Los Alamos set itself up with several good looks and good scoring opportunities, particularly in the second half.
One of the bright spots for Los Alamos during the district season has been the play of Jairo Marquez, a junior.
Marquez started off the season at forward, but Los Alamos head coach Evan Gartz moved him into the midfield to help shore up the team’s transition game, and it has paid dividends.
Tuesday, Marquez picked up an assist on a well-executed give-and-go with Eric Schmalz. Schmalz rotated all the way around the right side and put a shot into the left post off a short diagonal pass from Marquez that put the Hilltoppers up 2-0 at the time.
Schmalz tried to return the favor later in the half, but Marquez’s shot from the right side went just wide of the post.
The goal by Schmalz, coming in the 53rd minute, seemed to sap all the energy from the Demons, who got just one more shot-on-goal for the balance of the game.
Stone would come back just three minutes later for his second score off another assist from Marquez. Stone managed to turn the right corner deep in Santa Fe territory and went far post past a diving Pedro Mayorga.
Stone has feasted against the Demon defense this season. He had three goals in a wild contest Sept. 28 in Santa Fe to along with his pair of goals Tuesday.
Los Alamos has won three of its last four games and has generally felt better about how it’s playing. William Steinkamp, who had a big game Saturday against Bernalillo, said the team is starting to get things together in time for the final push.
“We were stepping it up a little,” Steinkamp said. “We’re definitely improving, stepping up the last couple of games compared to what we were. We’re starting to hit our full potential.”
Los Alamos has just two regular season games remaining, Saturday at Piedra Vista and the finale against Capital.
While the Hilltoppers will still be the underdog going into the Capital contest, they’re hoping for an improved performance next week.
“We learned a lot that last game,” Veenis said. “Offensively, we’ve got to get points on the board.”
Los Alamos doubled the shot output of Santa Fe in the second half, 10-5. Los Alamos goalkeeper Chris Parker finished with three saves.