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A week ago, Evan Gartz predicted his team would have to go on the road and would have to travel a few hours.
He was right on both counts.
The Los Alamos Hilltopper boys soccer team was seeded 10th in the Class 4A state tournament.
The 2011 boys and girls soccer playoff brackets were released Sunday by the New Mexico Activities Association. The first round of play in both state tournaments gets going this weekend at home sites before action shifts to the Albuquerque Public Schools Soccer Complex in Albuquerque.
Gartz, the Hilltopper boys head coach, said he wasn’t terribly surprised with where his team landed.
“I knew that we’d be somewhere between 9 and 12,” Gartz said. “We came through right in there. I was kind of hoping for an 8, but when you have a losing record, that’s what happens.”
Meanwhile, the Hilltopper girls soccer team landed at the No. 2 seed in the 4A draw, as most people expected.
As a result of a top-four seeding, the Hilltopper girls will have the weekend off to prepare for the winner between seventh-seeded Piedra Vista and 10th-seeded Del Norte.
The Hilltopper girls (17-4) lost only one game all season to a Class 4A opponent. That loss came at the hands of St. Pius X, which, not coincidentally, was awarded the No. 1 seed in the 4A bracket.
For Los Alamos’ boys, landing at No. 10 not only means it will have to play a first round game this weekend, it will also have to play on the road. Seeds 5-8 host first round games against seeds 9-12.
The Hilltopper boys will go to Farmington for a Saturday afternoon tilt against the Piedra Vista Panthers. Game time is set for 1 p.m. at Piedra Vista High School.
The two teams are not unfamiliar with each other. Piedra Vista topped Los Alamos 3-0 Sept. 29 in Farmington.
Gartz said the game was closer than the final score, but the Panthers (12-8) have forwards who are tough to corral and they scored three quick-strike goals.
“They have some dynamic athletes. That’s what beat us,” Gartz said. “We’re going to tighten up our defense and see how that works for us.”
Seeding stock for the Hilltoppers (8-11) fell considerably after last week’s loss to Capital in what essentially was the District 2-4A championship game. Capital scored twice in the second half to win 2-0 and nip Los Alamos for the district title by goal differential — Los Alamos scored just one goal in its win over Capital Oct. 1.
Piedra Vista finished second in District 1 behind Farmington. Farmington ended up with a No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
The top overall seed in the boys bracket is Belen, which finished the season a spotless 19-0, including going 10-0 in District 6.
Gartz said he wasn’t impressed with Belen’s strength-of-schedule, but added that going undefeated through the regular season undefeated was a remarkable accomplishment.
“There’s so many factors, but Belen deserves it,” he said.
Los Alamos defeated Belen in the 4A finale of the 2010 tournament, clinching its first state title since 1986.
In the girls bracket, the Hilltoppers won’t play until Nov. 3 in the quarterfinals.
Los Alamos has advanced to the past three state championship games, but lost all three to Albuquerque Academy. Los Alamos, however, defeated Academy in both their 2011 regular season meetings.
Academy is the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and also has a first round bye. Los Alamos and Academy could meet again in the state semifinals.
The Hilltoppers went 11-1 this season against 4A teams, including victories over tournament teams Academy, Belen, Farmington and Aztec. They didn’t play either Del Norte (9-9) or Piedra Vista (14-5-1).