Girls soccer: LA pulls off big 2nd half comeback

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By The Staff

Early in the second half Tuesday, Los Alamos’ girls soccer team was behind 2-0 against a team that doesn’t surrender a lot of 2-0 leads.

But a big push in the latter part of the second half tied the score at the end of regulation, setting up a dramatic game-winner by Shaina Riciputi in the first overtime period.

The Hilltoppers pulled off a come-from-behind stunner over the Albuquerque Academy Chargers Tuesday afternoon at Sullivan Field, winning 3-2.

Along with the comeback win, the Hilltoppers were also able to earn a measure of revenge for the Class AAAA state championship game last fall.

The pair of second half goals by the Hilltoppers made up for a lackluster first half that was controlled by the Chargers.

“I didn’t think we played our best game,” Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek said. “Academy had a better first half than we did, then when the second half started they had a few chances.”

Academy scored early in the contest off a corner kick about 10 minutes in. Kubicek said his team failed to mark some of the Chargers who had moved in toward the goal for the chance, resulting in the goal.

The Chargers, the top-ranked team in the state last week, according to NMSoccer.com, would eventually move up 2-0 before the drama got cranked up.

With only about 20 minutes remaining in regulation, the Hilltoppers (6-2) finally got on the board. Riciputi, who has played the bulk of the season so far at the sweeper position, was moved up into the offensive third of the field, as she was late in the game Saturday against Las Cruces.

Riciputi scored off a corner kick from Amy Neal to chop the Charger advantage in half. Riciputi wasn’t finished, however.

In overtime, Riciputi collected a rebound off a line drive from Lindsay Benage which clanked off the Academy crossbar, and returned the rebound in for the score and the win.

“She’s a weapon,” Kubicek said of the senior, playing her third season with the Hilltopper varsity.

The game’s equalizer came with about 10 minutes left in the second half. Following another corner kick, Emily Funsten ran down a loose ball and placed her 20-yard attempt just under the crossbar to knot the score and force the overtime period.

The win is the biggest of the season to date for the Hilltoppers. The Academy contest was the opener of a challenging stretch for Los Alamos, which will travel to St. Pius X for another grudge match before its District 2AAAA opener against Taos. Immediately following the Taos game, Los Alamos faces a very tough nondistrict game when it hosts Volcano Vista.

The Chargers (6-3) went into Tuesday’s game fresh off their victory at their home invitational this past weekend.

In the 2008 state title game, the Chargers managed to put just 2 shots on goal, but one of them, by Bridget Hill in the 67th minute, was enough to give them a 1-0 victory.

Kubicek said this year’s Chargers team is still very solid, but doesn’t have the speed on the front side or the big bodies in the back that last season’s team featured.

“They’re good,” he said. “They’re a strong team. You can’t take anything away from them, but this is the beginning of the season. They’ll get better and hopefully, we’ll get better.”