'Toppers close out season with win

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By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — The main objective for the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team Thursday afternoon was to tune up for the upcoming state playoffs.
But a win to close out the season is always nice, too.
Los Alamos took on the St. Michael’s Horsemen at Brother Abdon Field. Neither team had particularly efficient showings on offense, but Los Alamos escaped with a 1-0 victory.
Hilltopper Julia Haagenstad netted the only score of the contest, sending a short shot through a big scrum right in front of the St. Michael’s goal on a direct kick chance.
Los Alamos controlled the contest for the majority of the first half, but St. Mike’s set itself up with some shots late in the half and early in the second half, all of which were off-target.
Hilltopper goalkeeper Elena Atencio, who suffered an ankle injury earlier this month and is still wearing an ankle brace, earned the shutout, the eighth of the season for Los Alamos. Los Alamos has only allowed one goal since Oct. 3.
“I think they’ve really gotten it together,” Atencio said of the Hilltopper defense. “We were going through a tough time finding who goes where. It’s nice they’ve really put it together.”
The Hilltoppers made a lot of personnel adjustments throughout the first half of the season. While Atencio said there is still some of that going on now, things have settled in much better and the defense has earned five shutouts in its last six games of the season.
Thursday’s win over St. Mike’s (16-4) was the regular season finale for the Hilltoppers. They will now wait to see where they land when the Class 4A playoff brackets are released Sunday.
Because of losses earlier this season to Farmington, St. Pius X and Albuquerque Academy, it’s unlikely Los Alamos will get one of the top four spots in 4A and their accompanying byes into the state quarterfinals.
Haagenstad, a senior, thinks Los Alamos will land in the 5 or 6 spot when the seedings are announced.
“I think we do that with this game,” she said.
Los Alamos outshot St. Mike’s 5-1 in the first 30 minutes Thursday.
However, St. Mike’s sent a through ball into Hilltopper territory at the 31-minute mark and sent two quick shots toward the goal, both of which were off-target but resulted in a corner kick that the Horsemen had a couple of swipes at, missing on both of them.
For the game, Los Alamos outshot St. Mike’s 10-7.
Los Alamos (10-11) outscored its opponents 59-32 on the season. Haagenstad’s goal in heavy traffic was her fourth on the season.
“It was a little chaotic,” she said. “But I saw the ball and I went for it. We put that one in. I had a great ball from Stephanie Blair.”
Blair was credited with the assist on Haagenstad’s goal.