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The Los Alamos Hilltopper boys soccer team was doubled-up in the first round of the Albuquerque Academy Invitational Thursday afternoon.
Los Alamos hung tough against a very strong opponent, the Las Cruces Bulldawgs, scoring an equalizing goal in the second half, but Las Cruces finished off the contest with a pair of unanswered goals to win 4-2 in Albuquerque.
The Academy Invitational, hosted by Academy’s Chargers, is considered one of the toughest regular season tournaments in the state. Several top contenders from all over New Mexico are competing this year, as is usually the case with this tournament.
Los Alamos trailed 2-1 at the half Thursday, but tied the score in the second half.
However, the Bulldawgs (6-0), whom Hilltopper head coach Evan Gartz said is a legitimate threat for a Class 5A state title this season, made a key position switch in the second half, bringing fullback Nate Thompson up to the front.
Thompson took control of the game late, tallying what would be the game-winner, then following it up with a late insurance goal to seal the win for his team.
“He was very tough to stop, but we had some defensive lapses,” Gartz said of Thompson. “He’s really fast. He took it right at our guys, but it was our defensive breakdowns that let him get close to the goal.”
Collin Stone continued his offensive hot streak for the Hilltoppers (4-3) Thursday. Stone scored one goal and was tripped in the penalty box in the first half – Alexi Ortega made the penalty kick count.
Eric Schmalz earned an assist on Stone’s goal.
Gartz said he was pleased with the effort against a tough opponent, but the Hilltoppers could’ve done some things better, including not playing as many through balls and trying to be more disciplined in transition.
The loss snaps a two-game winning streak by the Hilltoppers, who knocked off St. Pius X and St. Michael’s in consecutive games prior to Thursday.
Los Alamos is scheduled to play another top team, Sandia Prep, this afternoon. Sandia Prep lost in overtime to Farmington.
The Academy Invitational continues through Saturday morning.