Toppers pick up fifth straight win

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Girls soccer: LA bounces back from early 1-0 deficit vs. Rio Rancho’s Rams

By Mike Cote

In the toughest stretch of its 2012 regular season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls soccer team went an impressive 5-1, including five straight wins in a span of six days.


The team will be getting some well-deserved time off for the balance of this week following the capper of the stretch, a victory over the Rio Rancho Rams Wednesday night.

Los Alamos bounced back from a disastrous sequence at the start of the game, letting a goal in at the 12-minute mark, to score twice in the first half and hang on for a 2-1 victory at Sullivan Field.

The Rams would have very little success penetrating the Hilltopper back line Wednesday, but the Hilltoppers did that for them in the 12th minute, when an innocent looking through ball came between Los Alamos’ best defensive player, Stephanie Blair, and goalkeeper Bryce Theesfeld.

Blair tried to tap the ball back to Theesfeld to clear it, but the Rams’ leading scorer, Brittany Shrader, beat Theesfeld to the ball and tipped it past the goalkeeper and in.

“It was my fault,” said Blair of the error. “I just didn’t kick it hard enough...but we had to keep picking it up and do what we had to do.”

Blair would make up for it later in the half, however.

With the score knotted at 1-1, Blair booted a perfectly targeted through-ball to forward Amy Neal and Neal did what she does best, namely outrun the defense and attack the goal.

Rio Rancho goalkeeper Krissy Stinson was late coming out of the goal to cut Neal off and Neal sent a chip shot right over her head and into the onion bag for what would be the game-winning score.

Neal, who scored both Los Alamos’ goals in a 2-0 decision the day before over Albuquerque Academy, leads Class 4A in scoring with 15 goals and 39 total points.

With Wednesday’s win over Rio Rancho, the Hilltoppers topped five consecutive high-quality programs in a row, including then No. 1 Las Cruces, Sandia Prep, Hope Christian and Academy. All those wins except the Rio Rancho wins were by at least a 2-goal margin.

Against Rio Rancho, Kubicek said his team impressed him the way it gutted the game out.

“We were tired playing five games in six days against some of the top teams in the state,” he said. “Going 5-0, the girls should be proud of themselves. The credit all goes to them. They never quit.”

The five wins followed up a disastrous game Sept. 8 at home, where the Hilltoppers fell 4-0 to St. Pius X.
Next up for the Hilltoppers, following a four-day respite granted them by Kubicek, is their District 2-4A opener at Bernalillo.

Los Alamos has not lost a district game since the 2006 season and is once again a huge favorite to claim its sixth consecutive district title. The only team that may give Los Alamos a run for its district money this season is Santa Fe, but has only managed a 3-5 record up to this point of the season against lesser teams than the Hilltoppers have built an 8-1 record against.

The Hilltoppers came back from the early 1-0 deficit in the 18th minute when Cassidy Reeves, who had another solid defensive game, sent a through-ball down the middle of the field where it was corralled by Catie McDonald. McDonald, the team’s second-leading scorer, split a pair of Rio Rancho fullbacks en route to the ball and put her shot just inside the right post past a diving Stinson to tie the game.

Rio Rancho, which started out rather passive on offense, made an offensive push late against Los Alamos, which by that point had seemed to run out of gas. Rio Rancho got off 9 shots in the second half, 4 in the last 17 minutes, to try to find the equalizer.

Theesfeld made 5 stops in the second half on the Rams to preserve the victory.

Blair said this tough 5-game stretch could scarcely have gone better for her team.

“We’re really excited,” she said. “We’re proud of ourselves. We worked everything out and we’re definitely excited about the way we’ve been playing.”