Valdez’s goal helps Lady Eagles win at LLHS

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In Saturday’s girls soccer match, Belen High coach Wilfred Carrasco spent several minutes of the second half addressing one player.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Alexis Begay, left, and Reanna Torres of Los Lunas battle for the ball in the first half of Saturday’s District 6-4A opener. Belen won on an overtime goal by Ari Valdez.

Carrasco was encouraging Ari Valdez to get to each play more quickly, and get more involved in the action. When Valdez ended up scoring the match-ending goal five minutes into overtime, the encouragement paid off.

The midfielder’s goal lifted Belen to a 2-1 road win over Los Lunas in the District 6-4A opener for both teams. Both squads were set to play matches Tuesday after News-Bulletin press time.

“I just tried to do more pass-and-go, and work the ball wide,” said Valdez, a sophomore. “All that practice paid off. Passing more often really helps, because then we’re not as tired.”

The win made the Lady Eagles 4-6 overall and 1-0 in 6-4A. Los Lunas fell to 4-5, 0-1. Belen was set to take on Gallup on Tuesday and will play at Miyamura on Saturday; the Tigers are scheduled to host Grants at 4 p.m. Thursday and to host Gallup at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“We really only had one defensive lapse today,” said Carrasco, referring to a breakaway goal in the 45th minute by Tiger sophomore Samantha Lucero. “The inside midfielder was supposed to cut her off, and I felt she was really close to being offside. But we have a plan on defense, and it worked in our favor today. We really need to string two good halves together in district games.”

Belen senior Kaitlyn D’Arcangeli began her career as an Eagle before playing two seasons at LLHS and returning to Belen High, and was recently activated after missing most of the pre-district slate with an injury. She has added a lot to the Eagles’ game, and she assisted on Alexis Begay’s goal only six minutes into Saturday’s match.

The 1-0 Belen lead would hold up until Lucero tied it for the Tigers in the second half. Belen then put progressively more pressure on the Los Lunas defenders, and eventually got the chance that turned out to be Valdez’s overtime winner.

“We adjusted our game plan,” said LLHS coach James Torres. “We made some marking adjustments, and we got a goal five minutes into the second half, which is exactly what I wanted. I was pleased with how our defense stayed organized and did a good job of staying with their marks, but Belen did a good job of getting numbers upfield.”

Tiger goalkeeper Samantha Savedra had to make a few nice plays in the last 20 minutes of regulation to help preserve the 1-1 tie. Valdez scored after the Eagles had been holding the ball in the LLHS end of the field throughout most of the overtime period.

A centering field from D’Arcangeli allowed Valdez to settle it, get around a defender and shoot with her right foot, beating Savedra from about 15 yards out.

The Tigers are still without a pair of injured juniors. Kayla Armijo has been released to practice and is expected to play next Tuesday against Miyamura, while Justine Candelaria is out indefinitely with a knee injury.

Saturday, the Eagles draw the task of facing Miyamura on the road. The two-time district champion Patriots won their 6-4A opener at Grants on Saturday, 8-0.

“The whole pre-district schedule was practice for this,” said Carrasco. “In these tough matches, especially against defending champs like Miyamura, we can’t afford to have lapses.”


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