Girls soccer: Toppers win, advance at state

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By Mike Cote

BERNALILLO — Following Saturday’s game, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Amelia Weaver took up pitching.

As Stephanie Oakes learned the hard way, Weaver has a pretty good curveball.

Weaver, a junior for the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team, bounced a goal by Oakes, the goalkeeper for the Aztec Tigers. That would be all the scoring in a 1-0 win for the Hilltoppers Saturday at the State Farm Insurance Complex.

Other than in the scoring column, the Hilltoppers dominated every facet of the game. Only a Herculean effort by Oakes, statistically the top-rated backstop in Class AAAA this season, kept the Hilltoppers from running away with the contest early.

Hilltopper head coach Jiri Kubicek noted that Saturday’s game felt a lot like the teams’ meeting during the regular season, also a 1-0 Hilltopper victory.

“Wish we’d scored a couple more goals,” Kubicek said. “Saya (Shimada) had a couple of chances, Mo (Maneesha Chitanvis) had a couple of shots. We make it tough on ourselves.”

Nevertheless, the win gave the Hilltoppers the Pool C championship in World Cup play and will move them on to the state Class AAAA semifinals. They will meet the biggest X-factor in the AAAA tournament, Volcano Vista, in a Thursday contest.

The one and only goal scored Saturday was by Weaver off an assist from Chitanvis in the 23rd minute and it was anything but a garden variety tally.

Chitanvis drove down the right side in Aztec territory, but a pair of Aztec fullbacks swooped in to cut off her advance. Just slightly to Chitanvis’ left, however, was Weaver in a full sprint.

Chitanvis tapped the ball over to Weaver near the 18-yard box as Oakes came in to cut her off. Weaver got off a roller toward the goal which didn’t have a whole lot on it, but had a lot of English.

Oakes appeared to have the roller right in her sights, but at the last second the ball took an awkward sideways bounce right past Oakes and slid into the goal before she could recover.

Los Alamos would go on to fire off seven more shots before halftime, but only two were on goal and both of those were stopped by Oakes.

There was a collective sigh of relief from the Los Alamos bench after the final whistle was blown.

“It was a bit ugly, but we pulled it out,” Chintanvis said afterward. “That’s all that matters.

For the contest, Los Alamos finished with 20 shots.

Aztec, on the other side, played pretty solid defense throughout — most of Los Alamos’ shots were from a middle-to-long distance — but its offense was virtually non-existent.

The Tigers, who had been shut out five times during the regular season, managed just one shot in the first half, a weak, off-line roller, and rarely bothered Los Alamos goalkeeper Jenny Tumas.

Tumas finished with three saves in the contest, with only one of those shots being much of a threat to go in.

The last offensive push for Aztec came in the 73rd minute. It barely broke the midfield stripe for the rest of the contest.

In the game, Aztec managed just four shots.

Part of the Tigers’ offensive struggles were due simply to the dominant play of the Hilltopper midfield.

Led by senior Keyla Tumas, Los Alamos’ midfield was stuffing the Tigers both from getting the ball downfield to their scorers and even from allowing the Tiger defense to clear balls after a Hilltopper offensive push. Los Alamos got a lot of second attack chances simply with its midfield jumping on clearing attempts.

The Hilltoppers (17-5) scored four goals two days earlier against the Del Norte Knights, the sixth seed in Class AAAA. Aztec went into pool play as the 10th seed, finishing third in the District 1AAAA standings.

Los Alamos has shown throughout the season it can run very hot-and-cold when trying to finish goals, but Chitanvis, Class AAAA’s leading scorer during the regular season, thought her team would be able to get back on track by Thursday’s semifinal.

“It happens, but we put in a good effort (Saturday),” she said. “We played well. Now we’re ready to put this behind us and move on.”

Thursday, Los Alamos will make its ninth-straight appearance in the state AAAA semifinals. In 2007, the Hilltoppers were knocked out by the Albuquerque Academy Chargers.