Girls soccer: LA splits pair with Spartans, Sartans

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By Mike Cote

With only about two weeks left in the regular season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team is still trying to learn about itself.
Whether it does or not may well determine its postseason outlook.
Los Alamos had a rough second half Friday night hosting the St. Pius X Sartans, falling in that contest 3-0. The team bounced back, however, in a District 2AAAA contest against the Bernalillo Spartans Saturday, grabbing a 3-0 victory and leaving itself just one win away from claiming its fifth-straight district title.
Little has come easily for the Hilltoppers this season, but a strong finish to the 2010 season could still put the team into the top four when playoff seeding is announced — there is little chance the Hilltoppers won’t be able to hold onto their district lead.
But a win against St. Pius, the No. 2 team in the state, would’ve given Los Alamos a better foothold on a possible first-round bye in the playoffs. A solid victory by the Sartans Friday made that foothold quite a bit more slippery.
“I was not pleased with our seniors, the whole group, how they handled the situation,” Los Alamos head coach Jiri Kubicek said following Saturday’s win at Sullivan Field, looking back at the night before.  “If the freshmen out there are our toughest players and the seniors don’t step up, we’ve got a problem.”
Los Alamos was able to hang with the St. Pius for most of the first half, but St. Pius start to pull away in the second half.
After Friday’s lackluster showing by the Hilltoppers, they knew they’d need a big outing against Bernalillo’s Spartans, a team they had more trouble with than they’d expected during their first meeting Sept. 21. Despite having numerous 1-on-1 scoring chances at Bernalillo, Los Alamos managed only two goals in the game.
Saturday, Los Alamos had to work harder for those chances, with Bernalillo sweeper Shalya Colton having a very good game, turning back several early Los Alamos through-balls. Colton didn’t play in the team’s first meeting.
But the Hilltoppers scored twice in the first half, once by Shannon Blair in the 22nd minute and the other by Amy Neal in the 35th minute.
Neal, Los Alamos’ top point-scorer this season, not only tallied an assist on Blair’s goal, but would score again in the 64th minute to ice the contest.
Following the win, Neal said she knew it was important for the team to get back on the right track as soon as it could.
“It definitely wasn’t our best game,” Neal said, referring to the St. Pius contest. “I was thinking we’d better win this game. We were pumped up for it. That was important.”
Bernalillo, despite pretty good defense throughout, had trouble clearing the ball much of the night. Its back line never got much of a respite, either, as the Bernalillo offense got almost nothing going.
Cassidy Reeves, who has played almost everywhere on the field this season, did a solid job for Los Alamos on the wing to help slow down what attacks the Spartans tried to muster.
The Hilltoppers (7-9 overall, 4-0 in 2AAAA) have just two district contests remaining and weren’t seriously challenged by either Santa Fe or Capital in the teams’ first meetings.
The more important pair of games could well be the Oct. 22 date with St. Michael’s and the Oct. 23 date with Aztec, a pair of prep games that the Hilltoppers will have to get them sharpened up for a potential postseason run.