LAHS boys soccer advances to state semifinals

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District rival Albuquerque Academy awiats Hilltoppers in semifinals

By Phil Scherer

It was a dominant showing for the No. 4 seed Los Alamos High School varsity boy’s soccer team in the state quarterfinals, as the Hilltoppers defeated No. 5 seed Roswell High School 3-0.

It was a rematch from the regular season, as LAHS defeated Roswell 2-0 earlier this season at the Albuquerque Academy Tournament on Sept. 9.

After falling to the Hilltoppers, Roswell went undefeated through the rest of the regular season, going 8-0 down the stretch, including a 6-0 record in district play.

Much like the first matchup between the two teams, the Hilltoppers were highly aggressive early, sending balls toward the Roswell net at every opportunity, as senior captain Tristan Semelsberger was able to dictate the pace at the beginning of the game with his ball-handling ability.

The Hilltoppers’ aggressiveness paid off quickly, as LAHS scored the game’s opening goal in the 6th minute. LAHS senior defender Ben Rees made a nice play near the sideline to keep a ball in play, and sent a pass toward the goal over to sophomore Samuel Cirigliano, who took a quick shot and sent it into the back of the net. The Hilltoppers led 1-0.

The first half was highly physical, as the Coyotes did whatever they could to stop the Hilltoppers’ leading scorers, Semelsberger and junior Arthur Steinkamp. Both were pushed to the ground to get them off the ball multiple times throughout the half. At one point, Steinkamp was sprinting toward the goal and was pulled down as he prepared to take a shot. Hilltopper fans believed a penalty kick should have been awarded, but no call was made.

After 40 minutes of play, LAHS led 1-0. Though the Hilltoppers were unable to add another goal in the first half, LAHS dominated the possession and picked up all of the quality scoring chances. The Hilltopper defense was able to keep the ball away from freshman goalkeeper Jaxson Martines throughout the first half, as he was not forced to stop any dangerous shots.

The second half proved to be much of the same for the Hilltoppers, as LAHS continued to dominate possession and keep the Roswell defenders on their toes near the goal.

Roswell goalkeeper Adrian Villa Parra kept his team in the game, as he was able to make great saves all day when the defense was unable to stop shots from the LAHS forwards.

LAHS was able to extend its lead to 2-0 in the 50th minute. Midfielder Jesse Prime made a pass up the field to Steinkamp, who made a move around a pair of defenders, as well as Parra. He tapped the ball into an empty net and gave his team a bit of breathing room in the second half.

The Hilltoppers added another goal in the 60th minute, as Prime made a great pass across the goal to get the ball into the scoring area. A group of LAHS players crowded the goal, and Steinkamp was able to tap the ball into the net, extending the Hilltopper lead to 3-0.

Steinkamp, who scored 23 goals in the regular season, was dominant throughout the afternoon.

Following the team’s third goal, the Hilltoppers cruised through the rest of the contest and advanced to the semifinals with a 3-0 win.

The Hilltoppers will meet district rival, and No. 1 seed, Albuquerque Academy in the semifinals Friday afternoon at 12:30 p.m.

Academy advanced to the semifinals with a 4-1 win over No. 9 seed Valencia High School in the quarterfinals.

The Chargers defeated the Hilltoppers twice in the regular season, most recently a 1-0 win over LAHS at Sullivan Field near the end of the regular season.

LAHS has lost to Academy in the state tournament in each of the last two seasons. Last year, the Chargers defeated the Hilltoppers 4-1 in the semifinals, and in 2015 Academy defeated LAHS 2-0 in the state championship game.

The winner of this year’s matchup between the Hilltoppers and Academy will advance to the state championship game, which will take place Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Bernalillo.