Lady Eagles win playoff; will face No. 1 seed

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The Belen Lady Eagles found themselves in the same spot as last season when they hosted Santa Teresa in the opening round of the Class 4A girls soccer state tournament.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Belen’s Natasha Sprunk, left, celebrates with teammates Victoria Cordova, center, and Amanda Menchaca, after Saturday’s BHS playoff win. Sprunk scored her team’s first goal as the Lady Eagles, the No. 8 seed in the Class 4A state tournament, beat Santa Teresa 2-0, and they’ll face No. 1 Albuquerque Academy at 10:45 a.m. Thursday at the APS Soccer Complex.

But instead of losing the 8-9 seed game on their home pitch, as they did to Roswell in 2011, the Eagles scored two second half goals to win 2-0 over Santa Teresa.

Belen was the lone District 6-4A team to survive the first round and will face Albuquerque Academy at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday at the APS Soccer Complex near Volcano Vista High.

Valencia and Miyamura both lost first round matches.

“We are looking forward to playing Albuquerque Academy,” said Eagle coach Wilfred Carrasco. “We are anticipating the battle of the season and hopefully we will continue to rise to the occasion and represent both Belen and District 6-4A.”

It will be a tall order to unseat the thee-time defending state champions and No. 1 seed in the girls tournament.

The Chargers came into the match with a 17-3 record and got an opening-round bye. Belen advanced to 12-8 with the win over Santa Teresa (13-7-1).

Belen broke the scoreless tie with a corner-kick play in the second half that had senior Kaitlyn D’Arcangeli punch the ball in the middle of three Belen players. Natasha Sprunk found the ball between two defenders and headed it toward the goal off the right side of her head. It shot past the Desert Warriors’ goalkeeper at the 61:14 mark.

“Actually, it was just something that we worked on only yesterday,” said D’Arcangeli. “We have a play similar to it that we use all of the time.”

Sprunk described the play.

“I was looking for the cross-through pass, and then just tried to get anything I could on it,” the Belen senior said.

“We just try to get as many bodies in there as we can. It is really just a little tugging, fighting match in there.”

The goal happened so fast, Sprunk was at a loss for words about the impact it had on the closely-played game.

“I really don’t know,” said Sprunk. “I was just able to get a head on it and it went right in. I am speechless. It was really humbling.”

Carrasco noted the first half play was about the two teams learning about each other’s style.

“We came out cautious because we were unsure of Santa Teresa’s playing style,” said Carrasco. “Santa Teresa played disciplined and composed, they did not waste too many passes and were able to control the ball first touch.”

Belen got an insurance goal with just under 10 minutes to play.

D’Arcangeli took a centering kick from Alexis Begay and struck the ball hard at the top of the penalty box. The ball went to the deep left corner to give Belen a 2-0 lead.

“We always shoot for corners. I had been getting frustrated all game,” said D’Arcangeli. “The other team worked really hard and we worked really hard. We were fortunate.”

In the first half, each team had a great scoring chance that came up empty.

“Their kicker found a three-person combination pass that caught our defenders flat,” said Carrasco, terming an offside call a “lucky break.”

D’Arcangeli had a one-on-one break with the Desert Warrior goaltender 10 minutes later, but the hard shot was deflected over the crossbar by the goalkeeper.

Belen outshot Santa Teresa 9-3 in the match.


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