Toppers hold on in shootout to win

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Boys soccer: LA's Steinkamp scores in second half to force game into OT

By Mike Cote

Second verse, same as the first.
The 2010 state champion Los Alamos Hilltopper boys soccer team rarely failed to keep fans on the edges of their seats and the 2011 Hilltoppers picked up right where their predecessors left off in Thursday’s season opener.
Los Alamos came back from a 1-0 deficit midway through the second half Thursday against the Rio Rancho Rams. After two scoreless overtime periods, Los Alamos picked up a 4-2 shootout victory to take its season opening contest 2-1 over the Rams at Dara Jones Field in White Rock.
Henry Steinkamp, assisted by Cooper Christensen, found the net in the 62nd minute Thursday, answering a goal 19 minutes earlier by Rio Rancho midfielder Josh Trujillo.
The first half and the start of the second half were shaky for the Hilltoppers, but Steinkamp said it was actually Trujillo’s goal that finally got the team going.
“Before the first goal we were not playing with intensity,” he said. “After that, something clicked in our heads. We started pushing the tempo.”
It was the second season opener in a row for that the Hilltoppers (1-0) defeated the Rams (1-1) in a shootout. The teams deadlocked in regulation and the overtime periods 2-2 before Los Alamos clinched the victory in a shootout.
Also last season, Hilltopper goalkeeper Lorenzo Venneri stopped a pair of Rio Rancho shots. Thursday, Venneri accomplished the same thing, stuffing two of the first three Ram penalty kick attempts.
On Los Alamos’ fifth attempt, Cooper Christensen pushed his penalty kick inside the right post to secure the victory, spurring a big celebration at the end line.
Los Alamos, which is playing with a slew of newcomers this season, still has plenty to work on, particularly with a big match at Farmington looming Saturday, but was able to take control of the contest almost immediately after falling behind.
“Our offensive attack was kind of in slow motion,” Los Alamos head coach Evan Gartz said. “We picked it up in the second half. In the last play of (the first overtime period), Ryan (Maestas) had a 1-on-1 with the goalie and put it over. You learn from that.”
Following Rio Rancho’s goal, Los Alamos took 11 shots to Rio Rancho’s seven.
Both teams appeared to get winded early in the first overtime period and very little action occurred in the second overtime.
Defensively, Los Alamos still has some bugs to fix — on several occasions the fullbacks were out of position and might have been in trouble had Rio Rancho not backed off its offense following Trujillo’s goal.
The Hilltoppers and Farmington’s Scorpions square off at Hutchison Stadium Saturday in a battle of the two most recent Class 4A champs — the two teams met in the 2009 title game with Farmington winning 3-0. The two teams could well be the teams to beat in the playoffs this season.
“We’re hoping to come out with a win,” Steinkamp said. “We need to keep our level of intensity up. We can’t have any more mental lapses.”