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Both the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys and girls soccer teams will be at home this weekend for the first round of the Class 4A playoffs, and both teams have a similar road to get to the state championship.
Both Los Alamos’ teams were awarded No. 6 seeds in the 4A postseason, which starts this weekend at home sites around the state. The tournament continues Nov. 7 and goes through Nov. 9 when the venue shifts to the Albuquerque Public Schools Soccer Complex near Volcano Vista High School.
The Hilltoppers will have back-to-back first round games Saturday at Sullivan Field. The Hilltopper boys will face No. 11 seed Centennial High School, a new school in Las Cruces, at 11 a.m., after which the Hilltopper girls will take on Piedra Vista at 1 p.m.
Seeds 5-8 will host first round games this weekend against seeds 9-12. The top four seeds in 4A have a bye into the Nov. 7 quarterfinal round.
Should Los Alamos’ girls win, they would face third-seeded Aztec in the quarterfinals, while a potential match-up for them in the semifinals would be second-seeded Farmington.
“We’re on a mission against all the Farmington teams,” Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek said, noting the other top-seeded teams, No. 1 overall St. Pius X and No. 4 Albuquerque Academy, are on the opposite end of the bracket.
The first time a team other than Los Alamos, Academy or St. Pius made the girls 4A championship game since 2000 was last year when the Aztec Tigers advanced to play Academy’s Chargers. Aztec knocked Los Alamos out of the playoffs in their semifinal contest.
Academy topped Aztec last year to win its fourth straight state championship.
Los Alamos, meanwhile, hasn’t hoisted the blue trophy since 2003.
The Hilltoppers finished with a record of 10-11 during the regular season, but were 4-11 at one point before finishing the season strong, including earning their seventh straight District 2 title and topping St. Michael’s in their season finale last Thursday.
The Hilltoppers often play one of the toughest schedules in the state and, as such, often don’t have a great won-loss record at the end.
However, as Kubicek noted, strength of schedule doesn’t seem to play much of a factor when determining seeds.
“(Won-loss record) is what they’re looking at,” Kubicek said. “If you’re 12-8 and you play a bunch of weak teams, you get a better seed than people who are playing 5A schools. I’m not sure who makes that decision, but I’m not going to worry about that because there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Like the Los Alamos girls, the Los Alamos boys were just fine with their No. 6 seed in the playoffs.
“I think that’s probably the highest we could get after Capital beat Santa Fe the way they did,” Hilltopper boys coach Evan Gartz said. “But our body of work this year showed. We got ourselves in that position.”
Los Alamos, which went 10-10 during the regular season, thought its seeding might have dropped considerably after taking a 4-0 drubbing Oct. 19 at Piedra Vista.
However, Los Alamos bounced back to knock off Capital 2-1 in its season finale. Capital was ranked No. 3 in the state heading into the Oct. 22 contest at Sullivan Field, but Los Alamos scored twice early in the game and was able to hold on for the upset, giving it a chance to steal the district title from the Jaguars.
However, the Jaguars themselves bounced back and pummeled Santa Fe 5-0 Saturday afternoon to clinch the District 2 championship.
In the boys bracket, Academy is the top overall seed and Roswell is No. 2 – that could easily have gone the other way, however, as both teams had excellent regular season showings.
Gartz said his team is plenty wary of Centennial, a young team that had some quality wins in 2013 and was actually rated higher on MaxPreps.com than the Hilltoppers prior to the release of the playoff brackets Sunday.
“We think this is going to be a tough match,” Gartz said. “The thing for us is to get our guys focused.”
Both Los Alamos teams are pretty close to 100 percent health-wise heading into the playoffs. Injuries have been something both teams have struggled with for most of the season.