BHS girls are out of playoffs after mercy-rule loss to Academy

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Facing the No. 1 Class 4A state tournament seed, which had won the state title four years in a row, the Belen High girls soccer team had its hands full Thursday.

So full, in fact, that the Lady Eagles didn’t even get to play a full match. They suffered an 11-1 state quarterfinal loss to Albuquerque Academy, ending their season. The state-quarterfinal loss at the APS Complex ended in the 68th minute, and ended Belen’s season with a 12-9 record.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Crystal Smith knocks the ball away from an Albuquerque Academy player in Thursday’s Class 4A state quarterfinal. The Belen High girls soccer team’s 11-1 loss to Academy ended their season.

Only Ari Valdez’s putback just before halftime, after an initial save on a Kaitlyn D’Arcangeli free kick, put Belen on the scoreboard. Other than that, the Chargers (18-3) moved the ball up and down the field at will.

“We’re tried to keep the ball out of the middle, because they transition so well,” Eagle coach Wilfred Carrasco said. “But we made little steps this year. We made it one round further.”

Loud supporters of the Eagles cheered as No. 8-seeded Belen tried to get an attack going, but the bigger, faster Academy players took control early. The BHS defense was too slow in reacting to runs by the Chargers, who scored their first three goals in the 11th, 12th and 13th minutes.

Academy got five more goals to lead 8-0 before Valdez got Belen’s lone goal. BHS junior goalkeeper Lupita Sabinas made 11 saves in the match, including a few in the early part of the second half, to keep the match from ending even earlier.

The Chargers’ final goal, in the 68th minute, epitomized their dominance. The BHS defense managed to force Academy senior Natalie Duboise to the outside, but she was able to launch a centering pass that was headed into the goal by teammate MacKenzie Miller to end the match, as the 10-goal margin had been reached.

Duboise scored four times and Miller added three goals. Zoe Jerome and Brooks Brennan each added a pair of goals for Academy, which was set to play St. Pius in a semifinal late Friday.

“We worked hard for 10 days to prepare for to this match,” said Chargers coach Pete Clinch, who is retiring from Academy at the end of the tournament after 26 seasons. “To have a program with this kind of success, it takes a lot of time commitment in the summer and fall.”

The Lady Eagles should return players at several positions, though D’Arcangeli, the team’s leading scorer, and fellow seniors Felisha Silva, Crystal Smith, Kyanna Garcia, Emily Crowder, Alisha Silva-Montoya and Brandy Ortega depart.

Silva and Montoya-Silva, along with junior Natasha Sprunk, were among those who didn’t suit up for Thursday’s match. Carrasco would not comment on their absence.

The coach said defender Ortega was battling flu symptoms Thursday, and another defender, Amanda Menchaca, played with a pulled groin. He praised several players, especially Smith, for stepping up their game, and he made several adjustments, including moving D’Arcangeli to the right defender spot for a time.

“It felt like we were having to play defense at every position,” he said. “But we got almost everyone some minutes.”

Belen’s 2-0, first-round win last weekend over Santa Teresa was their first victory in the state tournament since 2008.

“We are thankful to the fans who came out to Albuquerque to support us,” said Carrasco. “We’re not as deep as Academy, but we do have some athletes.”


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