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The Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team is on a hot streak and the Albuquerque Academy Chargers found out the hard way Tuesday.
Los Alamos got off to a slow start in its big Class 4A contest with the Chargers Tuesday in Albuquerque, but got things cranked up by the end of the first half. That momentum carried into the second half as Los Alamos scored two unanswered goals to win 2-0.
Hilltopper superstar forward Amy Neal tallied both goals, one off a corner kick and the other on a penalty kick conversion as her team picked up a big win over the defending Class 4A champs.
“The first half we played sluggish,” said Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek. “We came out of the first half pretty good, but we talked to the girls at halftime and told them we needed to be more physical. We dominated the second half.”
Los Alamos, off its win last weekend in the Albuquerque Academy Invitational, where it topped three high-quality opponents including the No. 1-ranked team in the state, Las Cruces, was battling through fatigue early in the contest — the Hilltoppers were playing their fourth game in five days — but kept the potent Charger offense off the scoreboard throughout.
Veteran fullback Cassidy Reeves was tasked with marking MacKenzie Miller, Academy’s leading scorer, throughout the contest. Reeves limited Miller’s touches in space to help secure the shutout.
Behind Reeves, Bryce Theesfeld was credited with 8 saves in goal.
It was a big win for the Hilltoppers (7-1), who have bounced back nicely from a lopsided loss at home against St. Pius X.
“The attitude changed,” Kubicek said. “Our first three games were easy and we didn’t have to work. Now the team is working for 80 minutes, wearing opponents out. If you work and don’t quit, it always pays off.”
Neal broke the scoreless tie in the 58th minute, heading in a corner kick from Catie McDonald. In the 75th minute, Los Alamos’ Katelyn Leslie, who had a solid game for the Hilltoppers Tuesday herself, was brought down in the goalkeeper box and Neal buried the ensuing penalty kick.
Kubicek said several players stepped up against Academy, including Elena Atenico in the midfield, who got the Hilltoppers back by winning some of the 50-50 balls her team had been losing in the first half.
It was a big regular season win for the Hilltoppers, although they will have to temper their celebration in upending the Chargers, who have won four consecutive Class 4A titles.
The Hilltoppers have defeated the Chargers in the regular season each of the past four years only to lose to the Chargers in the playoffs that same year.
Los Alamos has been eliminated by Academy in the state tournament each of the past five seasons and, because Los Alamos, Academy and St. Pius have comprised three-fourths of the Class 4A final four each year since 2000, it’s likely the two teams will see each other again.
Tonight, Los Alamos will host Class 5A opponent Rio Rancho (6-2) at Sullivan Field.
The only common opponent the Hilltoppers and Rams have is Academy, which Rio Rancho defeated 3-0 Sept. 1.