Lady Eagles could have recevied more post-season honors

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While the hard work of the 2011-12 Belen Lady Eagle girls soccer team will be acknowledged, the team’s top players were not on the ballot for all-state honors.

Eagle players Amber Saiz, Alexis Begay, Kaitlyn D’Arcangeli, Ari Valdez, Jadyn Casillas, Natasha Sprunk and Maria Sabinas all were named to one of the All-District 6-4A teams. However, according to BHS girls coach Wilfred Carrasco, Grants coach Leonard Gallegos did not enter the Belen players into the nmsoccer.com list, which is used to generate the Class 4A all-state ballot.

Nmsoccer.com is the sport’s main portal of statistics, coaches polls and post-season awards for New Mexico high school athletes. BHS boys coach Brian Weems was the sole representative who entered the boys all-district selections for all six District 6-4A teams.

Still, the Lady Eagles’ 11-9 season, which included a 7-3 record and second-place finish in 6-4A and first state-tourney appearance in three years, will feature individual honors. Though the seven BHS all-district players weren’t on the all-state ballot, they have recently been added to the nmsoccer.com all-6-4A lists.

Saiz and Begay were named to the 6-4A first team, while D’Arcangeli was on the second team and Casillas, Sprunk, Valdez and Sabinas were honorable mention.

“Post season honors are wonderful,” said Carrasco, the Eagles’ first-year coach. “I am glad our players were recognized and rewarded for their commitment to our team, but I believe our entire team did a great job this season. I am looking forward to next year, and I have a feeling once we figure out our defensive scheme, we will be a team to reckon with in District 6-4A.”

Saiz, a senior honored as a defender, has been a huge part of the Eagles’ wins over the past few seasons. A multi-year starter, Saiz used her speed, aggressiveness, ball skills and anticipation as the team’s middle defender and defensive captain. Carrasco also utilized Saiz in other roles on the field.

“Amber was our defensive rock this season,” said Carrasco. “She is by far the most athletic girl on our back line. The fact that she led all four seniors who were our defense is a tribute to her athleticism, considering we have Annie Blair, Justine Stambaugh and Dallas Ulibarri, who are all incredible athletes in their own right, playing back. Amber was able to adjust to a defensive midfielder, although her specialty is as a center back. She was such a threat that when she pushed the defense up, we were able to play possession soccer in the attacking half of the pitch.”

Begay, a freshman in her first full year with the varsity, sparked a number of offensive attacks. With 10 goals and six assists, she was the team’s second-leading scorer.

“Alexis is an awesome competitor who loves punishing defenders,” said Carrasco. “With our style of play, I needed a threat on the left side and Alexis did a remarkable job. She suffered with injuries the entire second half of the season, but never complained. She kept her aches and pains a secret and played lights out every time she stepped on the pitch. Alexis singlehandedly ruined Miyamura’s perfect season by scoring the only goal on their keeper in district play.”

D’Arcangeli’s second-team honor is one that might throw some for a loop. She was first-team All-Class 4A in 2010-11 after racking up 19 goals and 12 assists for Los Lunas High before transferring.

Not only did not being on the all-state ballot likely limit the junior’s post-season awards this season, but a plethora of talented midfielders in 6-4A kept D’Arcangeli from getting more votes at the district level.

The junior scored 14 goals and had six assists, placing her among the top 10 scorers in the district and in the top 20 in Class 4A.

“Kaitlyn is by far the best player on this Belen squad,” said Carrasco. “I know she was the best midfielder in the county and one of the premier mids in our district. She played with bad ankles the entire season and still managed to not only garner second team honors, she also elevated the level of play on our team. Every girl in our system benefitted by having Kaitlyn as a teammate.”

Valdez, a freshman, only scored three goals, due partly because she didn’t play near the front of the formation.

“Ari displayed her maturity and love for the game the entire season,” said the coach. “She is only a freshman, however, she was my offensive captain because she practices and plays composed beyond her years. She is a threat as an attacking mid who favors the left side, but we needed her to be a defensive mid, and she adjusted well. Ari is the type of player who can play any position on the pitch, because she is a competitor.”

Casillas, a sophomore, scored six goals with her hard-driving, straight-ahead approach.

“Jadyn is probably my most improved player this year, and peaked toward the end of district play,” said Carrasco. “Although she was selected as a forward, she played midfield and subbed in a time or two as a defender. She had some beautiful goals this season.”

Sprunk, a sophomore, recovered from a torn knee ligament suffered during basketball season.

“She had knee surgery in the off season and was still in the rehabilitation process when we started conditioning this summer.,” said the coach. “She is a threat with either foot, and she contributed quality minutes this year.”

Sabinas, in her first full year at the varsity level, made some rookie mistakes, but also made some amazing, athletic saves, making more than 140 stops during the year. The sophomore played every second of every Eagle match in 2011.

“Maria had a great year, and is a leader in the classroom as well as on the pitch,” said Carrasco. “She worked incredibly hard during the offseason, and the fact that she played every minute this season is a testament to her fitness and work ethic.”

 


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.