Lady Jaguars give up late goal in first-round loss

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Amid all the tears and dejected faces after the Valencia High girls soccer team’s loss at Kirtland Central on Saturday, there were seven seniors hoping to take the team at least one step further.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia senior Jazirae Chavira, left, leaps past Deena Charley of Kirtland Central in Saturday’s first-round playoff match. The Lady Jaguars suffered a heartbreaking, season-ending 2-1 loss at Kirtland, ending the careers of seven VHS seniors.

The Jags’ 2-1 loss to the Lady Broncos ended their season in the first round of the state playoffs. The veteran lineup of the Jaguars seemed poised to go further than last year’s first-round exit, especially since VHS had won 3-0 at Kirtland on Sept. 27, but poor possession offense and a couple of defensive gaffes were all it took to cost them a chance to reach the quarterfinals.

Valencia’s season ended with a 12-7 record, while the Broncos (15-6) advance to play No. 3 Aztec in Thursday’s quarterfinals in Albuquerque.

“We dominated the game,” said a tearful Kimberly Chavez-Burkhard, the VHS coach. “We just had a couple of stupid mistakes at two key moments, and we gave them the two goals. But it also didn’t help that we started playing their game, and booming the ball down the field.”

The Jags seemed to be making the early adjustments at Kirtland’s artificial-turf football stadium. But in the 14th minute, Kirtland’s leading scorer, Zoey Hooper, took advantage of the first major Jaguar error.

A through-pass in the middle was cut off by VHS goalkeeper Haley Baca, but her kick was blocked by Hooper. The ball bounced around before Hooper kicked it past two Jaguar defenders and into the goal.

About nine minutes later, Valencia tied the match. Jazirae Chavira launched a solid corner kick, and Norene Archuleta headed it high and over the head of Bronco goalkeeper Jennifer Hastings.

Valencia was able to move the ball upfield most of the match, but didn’t seem to get as many quality scoring chances as usual. This seemed to get worse in the second half, as the VHS midfielders settled for kicking the ball over the heads of Kirtland defenders, and letting the forwards run it down.

Kirtland scored the winning goal with 4:35 left on the game clock, just after Chavez-Burkhard had replaced Baca in goal with senior Samantha Kear. A centering feed was tipped by a Bronco player, and a Valencia defender had a chance to clear the ball, but whiffed on it completely.

The Broncos’ Hanalysa Thompson then kicked the ball toward the goal, and the shot rolled over Kear’s right arm and into the net for what turned out to be the winning goal.

The Jaguars tried to add pressure in the waning moments, but never got a serious scoring chance.

“We practiced so hard this week, and I’m not sure why we got away from what we were doing,” said Chavez-Burkhard. “They were more physical this time, but it’s frustrating to see that what happened in district, happened again.”

The coach praised her defense for stepping up. Kirtland coach Leonel Camacho said his team, with only two seniors, knew it was in for a physical match.

“We moved our sweeper, and we kept it in their third a little more in the last 20 minutes or so,” said Camacho. “Valencia has not scored almost 80 goals for nothing. They were persistent.”


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