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ALBUQUERQUE — It took 153 minutes of regulation play and 20 minutes of overtime play before the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team cracked through the defense of the Farmington Scorpions.
It could scarcely have come at a better time.
Shannon Blair tallied the first goal of the season by the Hilltoppers over the Farmington Scorpions late in Thursday’s semifinal round of the Class AAAA state championship tournament.
That goal, plus an insurance goal by Hilltopper Amy Neal, was enough to move the Hilltoppers into the state semifinals once again.
Los Alamos’ 2-0 victory matched them up today with another familiar opponent, the Aztec Tigers. Results of that game were not available at press time.
Farmington and Los Alamos met early in the 2010 regular season with the Scorpions taking a 1-0 shootout victory.
“It was way scary,” Blair said after the game. “Once I score, I just wanted the game to be over. I didn’t want to go through overtime or PKs or any of that nonsense.”
Blair found herself all alone near the goal mouth when Neal ran down a through ball in the right corner. Neal hit a crossing pass which Farmington goalkeeper Taylor Dexel came out to field, but her swing at the ball missed and the ball found its way right to Blair. Blair punched the ball in at the 73-minute mark to give the Hilltoppers the late edge.
Los Alamos survived a scare early in the game. In the eighth minute, Farmington’s Shayla Baysinger put a header past Hilltopper goalkeeper Bryce Theesfeld into the net.
Farmington, which hadn’t scored a goal against Los Alamos this season, either, started celebrating the apparent goal, but the tally was negated by a touchy offside call.
Beyond the waved-off goal from the Scorpions (14-5), however, they were able to generate little offense, particularly in the second half.
While Farmington outshot Los Alamos 9-6, most of its shots were wide of the mark.
For Theesfeld, she said she was happy her team was able to keep the Scorpions in check for the bulk of the contest.
“Coming in, it felt like it was going to be an even game,” she said. “We’re even teams, but we pushed it a little notch harder and we got the win.”
Her counterpart, Dexel, went into Thursday’s contest having allowed just 13 goals during the regular season, but Dexel, an aggressive goalkeeper, got overly aggressive on several potentially dangerous balls.
The otherwise stellar Farmington defense had just the breakdown on which Blair scored — Neal’s goal came as the Scorpions were trying to pinch up toward the Hilltopper goal and got caught too far down the field.
Aztec and Los Alamos played to a 2-1 shootout on the last day of the regular season, with Los Alamos prevailing at home, a win that Blair said was good for the team but unsatisfying to her personally, as she dislikes shootout wins.
Should Aztec prevail, it would be just the fourth different team to make an appearance in the title game since 2000, along with Los Alamos, Academy and St. Pius X.
Los Alamos, Academy and St. Pius are the only three teams since that time to qualify for the state final.
Los Alamos has been to two straight state championship contests but lost both of those to Academy.