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Young players continue to step up for Hilltoppers

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By Phil Scherer

It has been far from an easy start to the season for the Los Alamos High School boys’ soccer team. Heading into the year, a learning curve was to be expected for the Hilltoppers, a team that graduated 11 key players in May and had to find a way to work young players into a group that advanced to the state semifinals last year. 

One of the ways the Hilltoppers hoped to ease that transition was with its trio of captains, Jared Carnes, Jesse Prime and Arthur Steinkamp. All three of the players had large roles on last year’s team, as Steinkamp led the team in scoring, Carnes was a force in the midfield and Prime stabilized everything on the back line. 

However, all three have dealt with injuries early this season, forcing LAHS head coach Ron Blue to make adjustments almost every game. 

Prime has yet to play in a game this season as he continued to deal with a leg injury. Carnes had a great start to the season, but has been dealing with an injury in his back that makes it difficult to play. 

All season, Steinkamp has been dealing with a foot injury. Though he has not been completely healthy yet this year, he has played in all but three games, scoring 11 goals and creating opportunities at every opportunity. 

Despite all of the adversity facing the experienced players on the team, the Hilltoppers have jumped out to an 8-4 record. The only losses the team has this season have come at tournaments. At the Louie Cernicek Memorial Tournament, the team lost to Clovis and Roswell. At the Albuquerque Academy Tournament, the Hilltoppers lost to Academy and Hope Christian. 

Recently, the team has gotten into a groove, winning three games in a row, including road wins against Artesia and Roswell. 

One of the main reasons for the team’s success has been the play of its young players, many of whom had no varsity experience entering this season. 

Junior Nilesh Mukundan has been highly impressive in a striker role for the Hilltoppers, scoring four goals in his first 12 games and creating great opportunities for his teammates. Also impressive on the front line has been sophomore Nick Mozyrsky, who has scored three goals and dished out two assists. He has created great chemistry with many of his teammates, which has led to strong offensive play. 

Perhaps the most impressive newcomer has been sophomore Aiden Semelsberger, who has already established himself as one of the best playmakers in the state. In the first 12 games this season, Semelsberger has scored nine goals and leads the team with 13 assists. His 42 shots are also top among Hilltoppers. 

On defense, sophomore Sam Cirigliano has stabilized the back line for the Hilltoppers, as he has stepped up to limit the opposition’s chances on goal. 

Though goalies Jacob Majors and Jaxson Martines both had varsity experience entering this season, neither has played a full season in goal at this level. They have performed well early in the season, as both have recorded a shutout and multiple wins. Martines, a sophomore, is allowing just over one goal per game. 

Last season, Martines took over for Majors full-time as a freshamn when Majors suffered an injury, and helped lead the team to the Class 5A state semifinals.

As the team looks forward to district play beginning in early October, things are looking up. The injured players are getting back to full strength, making an already dangerous Hilltopper team even better. 

Following a short break in the season, LAHS will get back to action Oct. 9 on the road against Taos. 

The team will return to Sullivan Field on Oct. 16, for a matchup against Pojoaque Valley.