Los Lunas girls fall to Lady Jaguars, but edge SFHS

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Four years ago, the Los Lunas High girls soccer team was trying to win a district championship in Class 5A, and Valencia High was still getting used to varsity competition.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Mary Zamora of Los Lunas High, right, tries to keep Valencia’s Norene Archuleta from getting the ball in Tuesday’s match. Valencia dominated the action, winning 3-1, and the Class 4A state tournament seedings will be announced Sunday.

The two teams are in much different places in the 2012-13 season, so Tuesday’s match had an awkward feel to it. The Lady Jaguars, who won 3-1 at Los Lunas on Tuesday, are most likely headed to the playoffs, while the Lady Tigers are probably done for the year.

Still, each team has made tremendous strides this season — it’s just that Valencia had way more experience coming into 2012. The Jaguars are 12-6 overall and finish in third place in District 6-4A, behind Miyamura and Belen, while Los Lunas’ 3-7 district mark places them fourth, beating out fifth-place Grants on district goal differentials. LLHS is 8-11 overall.

Los Lunas outlasted Santa Fe High, 2-1 in overtime, on Thursday in a non-district match that concluded the Tigers’ regular season.

Valencia is anticipating its second consecutive Class 4A state tournament berth. Depending on how things shake out in other districts, the Jags could end up anywhere from a No. 6, 7 or 8 seed, and play a state match at home for the first time, or be on the road again with a 9, 10 or 11 seed.

“The girls are really pumped,” said VHS coach Kimberly Chavez-Burkhard. “They’re such a tight-knit group. We want to go far this time, and it’s nice to see we’re finally listening more, and playing the way we practice.”

The Jags dominated Tuesday’s match, getting to the ball first and mounting attack after attack. Their 24-2 advantage in shots on goal could have le to an even bigger margin on the scoreboard, as several shots hit a post and Tiger goalkeeper Samantha Savedra made some sparkling saves.

Valencia got on the board in the 16th minute, putting in a rebound after teammate Norene Archuleta hit the crossbar. Los Lunas evened the score at 1-1 about four minutes later, when a rare Tiger surge upfield led to a free kick by Analyssa Lopez and a goal by Samantha Lucero.

“We were on the ball more, and we created some opportunities,” said LLHS coach James Torres. “But overall, Valencia won more balls, and had a more efficient offense.”

Piro assisted on the goal that put VHS ahead for good in the 33rd minute. Her perfectly placed corner kick was headed into the goal by Archuleta for a 2-1 lead.

Valencia simply kept the ball in the LLHS end of the field too often for the Tigers to have hopes of evening the score again (Valencia beat the Tigers at VHS in overtime on Oct. 6, 3-2). The Jags’ Kaitlynn Craig headed in a pass from Jazirae Chavira about two minutes into the second half, and Craig, a known scoring force for Valencia, was wide open on the play.

The Jags hit a goalpost with several subsequent shots, including a penalty kick attempt by Archuleta. Valencia is going into the playoffs with momentum, having won three straight matches, including an emotional, late, come-from-behind win over Belen last Saturday.

Valencia has seven seniors who are hoping to improve upon last year’s 3-0 first-round playoff loss at Aztec: Archuleta, Craig, Piro, Jazirae Chavira, Samantha Kear, Marisa Lopez and Vanessa Sanchez.

“We’re like a family, and we’re more experienced and more together now,” said Archuleta. “I think we were surprised last year that we could keep up (with a playoff match), and we didn’t do too bad. There isn’t much the seniors need to tell each other; we know we need to start well, and have fun.”

Torres only loses four seniors — Cienna Thompson, Alli Madrid, Emma Moreno and Sarahi Boyso. Madrid missed two recent matches, including Tuesday’s, due to illness.

Thompson is a four-year starter who made a huge difference this season with her vocal leadership of the Tiger defense, the coach said.

“I think our passing game got a lot better this year,” said Torres. “That’s what we want to see.”

Los Lunas 2,

Santa Fe High 1 (OT)

Thursday at LLHS, the host Tigers were outplayed some facets of the game, but did enough work on defense and got a few offensive surges and lucky breaks to win the final match on their schedule.

Junior Samantha Lucero scored both Tiger goals — one in the 24th minute and another, the match winner, in the 87th.

Savedra made some key stops in the match to keep the Tigers in it, and she made nine saves in all. The Tiger defense, led by Thompson, made some valiant stands, and the forwards of the Demons (9-10) missed several opportunities.

Santa Fe kept the ball in the Los Lunas end much of the time, outshooting Los Lunas, 10-5, but the Tigers made the most of their chances.

C.J. Castleberry crossed the ball in to Lucero, who beat two defenders and the goalkeeper on her first goal. That gave Los Lunas a 1-0 lead that would last until the 55th minute, when Elena Lemus of Santa Fe drove and scored off of a corner kick.

The pace of the physical match picked up in the final 10 minutes of regulation. On their first serious offensive push of overtime, the Tigers scored seven minutes into the extra session when Reanna Torres fed Lucero, who was open in the middle.


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