LA picks up 3-0 victory in first round

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Boys soccer: Toppers score 3 times in second half to advance

ALBUQUERQUE — The last seven days have been challenging for the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys soccer team.
First, it hosted the Louie Cernicek Invitational last weekend, a tournament that included some of the top Class 4A talent in the state. Then, after playing three games in two days, it had to come right back Monday to face the St. Michael’s Horsemen.
On top of that, Thursday the Hilltoppers opened play at the Albuquerque Academy Invitational, facing a quality Class 5A opponent in the Cleveland Storm.
But the Hilltoppers were up to the challenge Thursday, picking up a decisive 3-0 victory to advance to the semifinal round of the tournament. The Hilltoppers were scheduled to face the 5A Las Cruces Bulldawgs this afternoon, but results weren’t available as of press time.
Los Alamos scored three times in the second half to put the game away. Los Alamos was in control for all but the opening few minutes of the first half, although it wouldn’t break the scoreless tie until early in the second half.
“We’re a little beaten up,” Los Alamos’ Ryan Kniss said. “We lost a couple of good players, but we’re still a strong team. Physically, everyone’s in amazing shape, so we’re not worried about anyone getting tired, but it’s hard doing all these games back-to-back.”
Kniss, who had a close call with under a minute to play in the opening half, put the contest away with his goal in the 72nd minute, making a sprint down the left side for a quick strike, beating Cleveland goalkeeper William Fink to the left post.
Other than a couple of early chances in the first half and some desperation attempts late in the contest, the Storm never sustained much of an attack Thursday.
Zeke Zumbro, who was moved back to the Hilltoppers’ back line, where he played for a good portion of 2010, has seemed in the last few games to help solidify the defense which had allowed 14 goals through the first six games of the season. Zumbro started out the first few games of 2011 at center-mid.
Los Alamos (4-3) recorded its first shutout of the season Thursday, something that head coach Evan Gartz was pleased to see.
“The big thing was we kept a clean sheet,” he said. “We have an incredible goalkeeper in Lorenzo (Venneri), but looking at our stats so far, it doesn’t look like it.”
Los Alamos wasted little time finding its scoring combinations. Striker Ryan Maestas also blew past the Cleveland defense on the left side in the 45th minute to score and give his team a 1-0 edge just seconds after a Storm turnover in the midfield.
Dallin Parker, who has had a hot foot of late, netted Los Alamos’ second goal in the 68th minute off an assist from Cooper Christensen.
Christensen, however, got hurt on a collision late in the contest with a Cleveland fullback and limped to the sidelines.
Christensen injured his left knee during the summer club season and has reaggravated it a few times since then.
Los Alamos is already somewhat shorthanded with starter David Stroud out after suffering a minor concussion and a nagging shoulder and collarbone problem.
For Thursday’s game, Los Alamos outshot Cleveland 18-6.
The Hilltoppers seldom fare particularly well at the Academy Invitational, which usually includes several tough teams from all classifications.
“We wanted to change that this year,” Kniss said. “We’re through the first step.”