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LA stung in state semis

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By Mike Cote

SANTA ANA PUEBLO — It was one comeback too many.In the Class AAAA state semifinals, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team trailed 1-0 and 2-1, but bounced back to tie the score on both occasions.But the final goal, scored by Albuquerque Academy’s Riah Risk in the 74th minute was too much for the ’Toppers to bounce back from, as they fell to Academy’s Chargers 3-2 Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Soccer Complex.The Chargers advanced to play in today’s Class AAAA championship against their arch-rival and district mate St. Pius X, which won its semifinal game over Aztec 6-1.It was a disappointing end to 2007 for the Hilltoppers, who had state title expectations.The Hilltoppers looked like they might break the game open in the second half, putting together some solid runs throughout, but were unable to tally.“We outplayed them,” Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek said. “I thought we were going to get it done. We got good opportunities, Mo (Maneesha Chitanivs) had two, but you’ve got to put those in.”Los Alamos managed 11 shots in the second half to Academy’s three, but Academy would get the only goal of the final 40 minutes.Academy’s Shelley Casey, the team’s main scoring threat, pushed the ball deep into Hilltopper territory late, but was stripped by Shaina Riciputi, the Los Alamos sweeper. Los Alamos had a chance to clear the ball, but a clearing attempt was partially blocked and the ball ended up at the feet of Academy’s Jennifer White, who dropped a short pass to Risk.Risk ripped a shot from 40 yards out which sailed right under the crossbar, just beyond the reach of Hilltopper goalkeeper Jenny Tumas.That would prove to be the game-winner.Los Alamos got off a couple of desperation shots as time wound down, but both were well off-target.“On the last goal, we knew we had to get it up, and we panicked a little,” Hilltopper midfielder Sarah Ethridge said.The Hilltoppers (18-5) never led in the game, but were able to answer both Charger goals in the first half with goals of their own, including a penalty kick late in the opening half to knot the score at 2-2 heading into the break.Casey, who finished second in Class AAAA in scoring during the regular season, earned both Academy’s goals in the first half, one an open-netter in the 20th minute and the second 10 minutes later off a direct kick that was passed directly to her.“We did really well in the first half coming back,” Ethridge said. “We kept our heads in it the entire game. It was good to see. It was a good game to go out on.”With Academy up 1-0, Desirae Hull hit a ball toward the Academy goalkeeper Erin Wosick, who misplayed it. Chitanvis was there to scoop it up and score an open-netter of her own to tie it up.Following Casey’s second goal, Hull moved deep into the left corner and tried dribbling through a pair of Academy defenders. On her way through, she was tripped up by A21, resulting in a ’Topper penalty kick. Ethridge took the kick and put her shot just inside the left post, tying the score up once again just before the half.For the game, the Hilltoppers outshot the Chargers 16-9. Wosick was forced to stop seven shots in the contest to just two saves for Tumas.Thursday’s meeting was the second time the two teams had played in 2007. Los Alamos hosted Academy Sept. 18 and gave its visitors a thorough drubbing, winning that contest 3-0.The two teams also met in the 2006 state AAAA semifinal, with Los Alamos prevailing 1-0 and advancing to the championship before falling to St. Pius 5-1.“We started out great,” Kubicek said of his team’s season. “We got to district, got a lot of injuries. I’ve got to give everyone credit, they came back, played a great game (Thursday), but just came up a little bit short.”