Girl's soccer earns comeback win

-A A +A
By Phil Scherer

The Los Alamos High School varsity girl’s soccer team continued their strong start to the season, defeating St. Pius X High School 2-1 Tuesday night at Sullivan Field in comeback fashion. 


“The girls showed a lot of composure tonight,” head coach Ann Cernicek said. “Nothing can slow you down. You just have to keep fighting and looking for opportunities, and I think we did a really nice job of that.”


The game was delayed more than 90 minutes at the start because of lightning and heavy rain, which forced the JV game that took place before the varsity game to be cancelled after 58 minutes. 


Once the varsity game got started just after 7 p.m., the Hilltoppers immediately tried to assert their dominance offensively, attacking through the middle of the defense and earning corner kicks and throw-ins near the goal. 


They were unable to take advantage of these set pieces, however, as the defense of St. Pius got in the way of every attempt, moving the ball out of danger. 


St. Pius got on the scoreboard in the 11th minute on their first real attack of the game. Gabby Martin of St. Pius was able to sneak past the entire defense and receive a pass sprinting down the middle of the field. Before Hilltopper goalkeeper Ashley Atencio had a chance to react, the ball was over her head and into the back of the net. LAHS trailed 1-0.


Throughout the first half, the Hilltoppers struggled to get anything going offensively, as they struggled time and time again to get the ball past the strong back line of St. Pius. 


As the first half came to a close, LAHS found a good scoring opportunity and came within inches of tying the game. 


A shot attempt by Jennifer Paige on the right side of the goal snuck just past the left post after getting past the St. Pius goalkeeper. 


The Hiltoppers went into halftime trailing 1-0. 


“The first half was really frustrating because the goals just wouldn’t fall,” Cernicek said. 


It was much of the same early in the second half, as the Hilltoppers kept much of the possession of the ball, but could not get past the middle of the field. 


Every time they attempted to do so, the defense would clear the ball out of danger, forcing LAHS to reset. 


Alix Hailey ended the frustration for the Hilltoppers in the 60th minute, with a great setup by teammate Elsa Gram. 


Gram made a great individual effort to keep the ball in bounds near the goal line and passed it over to the middle of the field. After a scramble in front of the net, the ball came right to Hailey in front, who was able to bend the ball around the goalkeeper and into the back of the net, tying the score and flipping the momentum of the game. 


It was Hailey’s team-leading eighth goal of the season.


“With some persistence and perseverance, we were able to find the back of the net,” Cernicek said.


The Hilltoppers avoided disaster just six minutes later, as Atencio was forced to make a diving effort on a crossing attempt. 


Had the cross been successful, St. Pius’ attackers would have had an empty net to shoot into.


LAHS went on top for good in the 68th minute, when after another long scramble in front of the St. Pius net, the ball found the feet of Gram, who was able to chip it into the back of the net and give the Hilltoppers a 2-1 advantage. 


Though St. Pius attempted to turn up the intensity as the clock continued to wind down, they were never able to put anything together, allowing the Hilltoppers to escape with a 2-1 victory. 


“I think we dominated this game possession-wise,” Cernicek said. “We played some really good soccer against a really good team.”


The team is now 4-0 this season. They will play their next game at home against Taos. 


That game will begin at about 4 p.m. Tuesday at Sullivan Field.