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Despite a rough finish to the 2011 season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys soccer team believes it can get back to championship form in 2012.
However, there’s still some work to do.
Los Alamos moved the ball fairly well down the field for most of its season opener Tuesday against Bosque School, but good looks, particularly in the second half, were hard to come by.
The Hilltoppers fell in their season opener, the second half of a home-opening doubleheader with the Hilltopper girls soccer team. Bosque forward Dylan Chant sprinted down the teeth of Los Alamos’ defense following a turnover in the midfield and roared straight to the goal in overtime to give the Bobcats a 2-1 victory.
The Bobcats (2-0), who could well be in contention for a small-school title at the end of the season, withstood some deep Hilltopper pushes in the early part of the contest and appeared to start dictating the pace of play in the latter part of the second half.
While the second half push by Bosque didn’t net it any goals, the momentum seemed to be on the Bobcats’ side heading into the first overtime period.
“We had the momentum all through the second half until the end, but we weren’t connecting on those front pieces,” Los Alamos head coach Evan Gartz said. “That was a little disheartening. Their goals shouldn’t have happened. Their first goal, we missed a mark. We’ve still got to tighten that up.”
Chant, a fast, bruising striker, scored both Bosque’s goal in the contest. Along with his game-winner in the 88th minute, Chant got loose in front of the Hilltopper goal on a corner kick attempt by teammate Adam Culp to break the scoreless tie.
Los Alamos was hoping to get its season started with a win over a quality opponent like Bosque and had some chances to take control of the game throughout the first half. Dallin Parker, who made some solid runs from the forward spot Tuesday, got a centering pass to a crashing Ryan Maestas in the 13th minute, but the Bosque defense rotated over an instant before Maestas could get a shot off to knock the ball away.
The Hilltoppers wouldn’t get on the board until the late first half. Parker, going around the right side near the Bobcat goal, got a short pass in between Maestas and Cooper Christensen at the goal mouth. Maestas was credited with the goal Parker and Christensen earned assists on the play, which knotted the score at 1-1.
Los Alamos got off 4 shots to 3 Bosque shots in the first half.
In the second half, neither team could mount a sustained attack, although the Hilltoppers (0-1) got off a couple of shots early on.
But around the 65th minute, the Bobcats looked to get a second wind. They were a step quicker to 50-50 balls and got off four shots in the final 10 minutes of the ballgame, including a well-placed shot by Darin Jones toward the right post that goalkeeper Tyler Mullen made a diving save on.
Mullen, making the first varsity start of his career, finished with five saves.
The second half push by the Bobcats came as no surprise to their veteran coach Klaus Weber because he said he’s put his charges through a rigorous conditioning schedule this summer.
“We outhustled them although they have the altitude on their side,” said Weber, who is a former soccer coach at the University of New Mexico. “We started to turn the tables on them a little bit 10 minutes before the end. We were able to turn that around.”
The Bobcats started their season with a 1-0 shutout win over another solid Class 4A team, Piedra Vista, Friday in Albuquerque.
Los Alamos will have a couple of days to review Tuesday’s loss and try to iron out some details before it starts its premier event of the season, the Louie Cernicek Invitational. Los Alamos will face Class 4A runner-up Belen in the first round of the Cernicek tournament Friday morning.
“Our shape was collapsing when they went on counterattack,” Gartz said. “We really need to shape up the defense and the midfield’s got to cover. We were letting them get into our defensive third and there were way too many corner kicks.”