'Toppers score 4 goals in 2nd half

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By Mike Cote

The reason “stars” are given that moniker is because they come up big when things are on the line.
Enter Catie McDonald.
With the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team limping through the first half of a big game Tuesday night, McDonald took command in the second half, scoring twice and being a menacing offensive presence, helping to turn what appeared to be a struggle against the Santa Fe Demons into a full-on rout.
McDonald was virtually unstoppable in the second half. She scored in the 61st and 74th minute to lead her team to a 5-1 victory over its toughest District 2-4A opponent and helped lock up the Hilltoppers’ seventh consecutive district title Tuesday at Sullivan Field.
“She just did a good job,” said Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek. “She would make a run and punish them. She’s just a talented kid.”
McDonald, just a sophomore, is the fifth-leading scorer in Class 4A this season and is far-and-away the top scorer for the Hilltoppers with 19 goals.
If not for McDonald’s big performance, the outcome of Tuesday night’s game could’ve been very different.
Los Alamos couldn’t get much of a sustained attack in the first half against Santa Fe and actually got outplayed for a big chunk of the first 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, Santa Fe (10-6 overall, 3-2 in 2-4A) appeared to be getting more and more confident as the first half progressed, even after falling behind early, 1-0.
The early deficit – McDonald put Los Alamos on the board in the 13th minute off an assist from Chandler Art – didn’t deter the Demons at all, who made some deep runs from the wings in the second half and Los Alamos’ defense had to play catch-up on several possessions, particularly against the Demons’ speedy junior Elena Lemus.
In the 38th minute, Santa Fe senior Se’a Torres O’Neal, who had been marking McDonald for much of the opening half, switched to the Demons’ offensive third – O’Neal’s listed as a forward on the Demons’ roster – and ran unchallenged down the right side of the field to field a through ball.
O’Neal corralled the ball and drew Hilltopper goalkeeper Elena Atencio out to meet her 15 yards from the goal mouth before putting a shot right into the far post to tie the score.
The goal prompted a lengthy halftime lecture from Kubicek, who called his team out after a general lack of effort three days earlier in a game against Bernalillo.
Los Alamos responded in a big way.
“In the first half we weren’t coming out with total confidence, total belief in ourselves,” Los Alamos junior Sarah Criscuolo said. “In the first half there were small mistakes we were making. In the second half we were able to clean those up.”
The second half onslaught by the Hilltoppers (7-10 overall, 5-0 in 2-4A) started early and often.
McDonald shot three times in fairly quick succession to open the second half and it was the Santa Fe defense that struggled to respond. The Hilltoppers had five corner kicks in the first eight minutes of the half, with Art bending one into the far post from the right side to put Los Alamos up 2-1 at that point.
Art had two assists to go along with her corner kick goal.
In the teams’ first meeting Sept. 28, Los Alamos was playing short-handed, missing McDonald for the second half after she was tagged with a questionable red card and Kristin Funsten, who was injured in pregame warm-ups.
Despite missing several key players, Los Alamos still escaped Ivan Head Stadium with a 3-1 victory in what might have been its toughest test during its 7-year district title run.
Los Alamos is now assured of a spot in the Class 4A postseason, which starts in the first weekend of November.
Criscuolo, who had a goal in the 49th minute, assisted by Funsten, said earning the district title was a big relief for her.
“It seemed to us we didn’t have the upper hand and we had to pick it up if we wanted to have a chance to get to state,” she said.