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A team on a mission

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Experienced LAHS boy’s soccer team looks to ride fast-paced style to a title

By Phil Scherer

 When the Los Alamos High School boy’s soccer team is on the field together, it appears that they have been playing alongside each other their whole lives.

That’s because, in many cases, they have been.

They may not be the biggest or the fastest team. But every player knows his role, and can anticipate where their teammates are going to be at any given time, because the majority of them have been playing together since they were 6 years old.

Tristan Semelsberger, a senior midfielder and captain said that playing together since elementary school is a factor this is hard to capture on the score sheet.

“It just gives us a greater team chemistry together,” Semelsberger said. “I think we know each other’s play style very well, which definitely helps us.”

Ben Rees, a senior defenseman and captain, said that the familiarity also helps when things start to go poorly.

“A lot of it just has to do with getting along with each other in the sense that when things get tough and people start getting frustrated, that it’s not toxic and aggressive to the team atmosphere,” Rees said.

What they lack in size and speed, they make up for in precision.

The player’s heads are constantly on a swivel, looking for an open teammate. There is no sense of selfishness. This team knows that to find success, they will have to work as an 11-man unit at all times.

This is one of the main things head coach Ron Blue is trying to get his players to buy into this year.

“We’re not going to have any one guy you can look at and say, ‘wow, he’s the man,’” Blue said. “But we are going to be a really nice, well-balanced team.”

In fact, it is hard for Blue to even pinpoint where the biggest strength of his team lies.

At one point during Wednesday night’s practice, Blue began to call the midfielders the strength of his team, and then took a long pause. He looked intently out onto the field where his varsity team was practicing, then lookied down and shook his head.

He said, “Wow, we are going to be really well-balanced.”

The team has reason to be excited for the year. They will be an experienced bunch, led by 11 seniors. Also returning will be junior forward Arthur Steinkamp, who tallied 19 goals last year.

While Blue said Steinkamp is a great athlete with a knack for putting the ball in the back of the net, he said this year could be much tougher for him.

“He is going to be a marked man,” Blue said. “It will be much more challenging for him to score when they’re going to be keyed on him.”

Despite all the reasons for optimism, there is a team standing in their way that could derail their dreams of a special season, one that has sent them home unhappy each of the last two years – Albuquerque Academy.

Recently, Albuquerque Academy has earned a reputation as one of the strongest teams in the entire state, winning two straight state championships.

They defeated LAHS in the state finals two years ago, setting up an intense rivalry between the two schools.

That rivalry grew stronger last year, when Albuquerque Academy was moved into Class 5A Distrct 2, alongside LAHS.

The teams faced off four times last year, with Academy winning three of the four. The final matchup came in the state semifinals, a 4-1 Academy victory.

Although LAHS is talented again this year, they know their success will be measured in the head-to-head matchups with Academy.

“We’re right there with them,” Blue said. “We know we’ve got talent. They’re bigger and stronger and faster than us in a lot of spots, but when we move the ball, we can really play some beautiful soccer.”