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LAHS girls soccer advances to state semifinals

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Hilltoppers defeat St. Pius 3-2 in double overtime in state quarterfinals

By Phil Scherer

The No. 6 seed Los Alamos High School varsity girl’s soccer team pulled off an upset in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state tournament, defeating No. 3 seed St. Pius X High School 3-2 in double overtime.

Heading in, it was expected to be a highly competitive matchup, as the Hilltoppers had defeated the Sartans at Sullivan Field earlier this season 2-1.

However, the Sartans had put together a great regular season, compiling a record of 11-5-1, and going 7-0-1 in district play.

The game did not start out well for the Hilltoppers, as LAHS surrendered a goal just three minutes into the contest after the Sartans were set up with an early corner kick. Though the corner kick was not on target, the redirected shot by Miranda Hart was. Hilltopper goalkeeper Ashley Atencio had no chance to stop the shot, which gave St. Pius X a 1-0 lead.

Much of the early action took place in the Hilltopper defensive zone, as the Sartans tried over and over to get the ball onto the feet of Hart, who was St. Pius’ leading scorer this season. During the regular season, Hart scored 27 goals.

After the opening goal, however, the Hilltoppers did a nice job of defending Hart, led by Vianey Terrazas, who marked her throughout the game. Also key in slowing down the offensive attack of the Sartans were Jaci Linn and Amy Littleton, who both had outstanding games.

The Hilltoppers were able to take advantage of a rare scoring opportunity in the 12th minute, as Alissia Haagenstad was able to get a run going into the Sartans defensive zone. She fired a quick shot into the back of the net before the goalkeeper Kassandra Ascevez had a chance to react. The goal tied the score 1-1 and gave LAHS a renewed sense of belief.

St. Pius took the lead once again in the 25th minute, as Hart cashed in her second of the game. There was a scramble in front of the LAHS net after a shot by the Sartans Emma Donlin, and after Atencio made a save on the initial shot, Hart beat Atencio to the rebound and rocketed the ball into the back of the net. St. Pius led 2-1.

Though St. Pius pushed hard for another goal as the first half drew to a close, the Hilltoppers were able to increase the pressure defensively and keep the Sartans off the scoreboard. The first half ended with St. Pius leading 2-1.

Right after halftime, the Hilltoppers proved to be resilient once again as Alix Hailey tied the score in the 44th minute. Haagenstad made a run down the right side of the field, and put a shot on goal, which was deflected by the goalkeeper, Ascevez, and bounced right to Hailey, who rocketed the ball into the back of the net. The score was tied 2-2.

After tying the score, the Hilltoppers became more aggressive offensively and started making more deep passes downfield attempting to create scoring chances, while the Sartans were forced to back up more defensively.

The Hilltoppers were unable to score in the minutes that followed the goal, however, as the Sartans became more comfortable once again, as the teams traded scoring opportunities.

Both teams missed on key opportunities, as Haagenstad shot the ball wide of an open goal, and almost immediately after, the Sartans made a run at Atencio, who was able to make a difficult save.

Atencio was one of the best players on the field throughout the game for LAHS, as she was under constant attack from Hart and the other Sartans, and made a number of impressive stops to keep her team in the game. In regulation, she was credited with five saves.

In the final minute of regulation time, it appeared LAHS had scored the game-winning goal, but it did not count, as the Hilltoppers committed a foul in front of the net.

Regulation ended with the score tied 2-2, sending the game into overtime, and ensuring the game would end in dramatic fashion.

Though both teams had quality chances in the first overtime period, no goals were scored, sending the game into the second overtime period.

The Hilltoppers won the game as the second overtime wound to a close, as Hailey scored the game-winning goal in the 98th minute. Katie Hopkins took the initial shot and Acevez was able to make the save, but the deflection came to Hailey, who shot the ball into the empty net. LAHS won the game 3-2 in double overtime.

Hailey’s second goal of the game sent the Hilltoppers to the semifinals of the state tournament, where LAHS will face the

No. 2 seed Aztec High School at 10 a.m. Friday. The winner of that game will advance to the state championship game Saturday afternoon.

In the quarterfinals, Aztec defeated Los Lunas High School 1-0.