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ALBUQUERQUE – The final score was close. The game on the field wasn’t as close.
In its toughest test of its young season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer field got a chance to see one of its main rivals, the St. Pius X Sartans.
The Sartans, who again appear to be one of the top teams in Class 4A, dominated possession Tuesday, but had a hard time finding the net.
However, they were able to score a pair of goals in the second half, including the game winner with time winding down to knock off the Hilltoppers 2-1 at Ben Rios Field.
Los Alamos’ goal came only about a minute after St. Pius broke the scoreless tie in the second half, with Chandler Art getting lost right in the heart of what, except for that series, had been a very stout Sartan defense.
Beyond that, however, the Hilltoppers managed to get off just four shots.
It was a toasty warm afternoon in Albuquerque Tuesday, with kickoff temperature in the mid-90s. That, combined with playing on a wide and slow, natural grass field, took its toll on the Hilltoppers.
“That has an effect, but it’s still two or three weeks before we get in good shape to play,” Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek said. “We’ve got 10 days off. That’s going to help. Tomorrow and Thursday, we’re going to work on conditioning.”
Tuesday’s loss dropped Los Alamos to 1-3 on the season.
St. Pius, which dominated its first three opponents this season, topping them by a combined 26-0, appeared to be poised to dominate again, getting off 9 shots to none for Los Alamos in the first 27 minutes.
But most of the Sartan shots were either off the mark or went right into the waiting arms of Elena Atencio.
Atencio, a senior who is starting in goal for the first time this season, had to make 13 stops, 8 of them in the first half.
Unfortunately, Atencio couldn’t hang on to Vanessa Hernandez’s shot from the top of the penalty box in the 73rd minute. Hernandez went across the goal mouth from right to left. Atencio seemed to have control of the attempt initially, but it slipped out of her hands and across the goal line for the game-winner.
St. Pius head coach David Sullivan said afterward he knew it was going to be a tough contest with Los Alamos, but hoped his team would make more of its 27 shots during the contest.
“It was one of those games where we took lots of shots, but they didn’t have anything on them,” he said. “It’s like we had just played five games in a row.”
Tuesday’s loss was the fourth straight time the Hilltoppers fell to the Sartans during the regular season.