All-state honors for Archuleta and Craig highlight VHS awards

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In 2008, a team of girls soccer players was trying to help build a varsity program, taking their lumps from the likes of Albuquerque Academy, Del Norte and Moriarty.

The Valencia Lady Jaguars still has some milestones to attain. However, the 2012 squad, especially the seniors, checked off a few significant team goals this year, and several players were recently rewarded with All-District 6-4A and All-Class 4A honors.

The team went 12-9 this year, and placed third in District 6-4A with a mark of 7-3.

Highlighting the Jags' individual honors were honorable mention All-State selections for senior forwards Kaitlynn Craig and Norene Archuleta, and the District 6-4A Coach of the Year Award for VHS coach Kimberly Chavez-Burkhard.

"This senior class has mostly played together with me since they were eighth-graders," said Chavez-Burkhard. "That kind of dedication really shows something to the younger players."

Craig and Archuleta were fourth and tied for fifth, respectively, in Class 4A in scoring, according to www.nmsoccer.com. Craig had 31 goals and 72 points to earn her first all-state honor; Archuleta, who was all-state as a junior, was one of the team's three captains this year, and had 22 goals and 57 points.

The diminutive forwards were instrumental in the Jags' speed-oriented scoring attack, and each player would often out-jump taller players for the ball. Neither Craig nor Archuleta has committed to a college program.

Craig and Archuleta were joined by sophomore defender Clara Sims and senior midfielder Jazirae Chavira.

After spot duty on the varsity as an eighth-grader, the 6-foot Sims missed her freshman season when she had knee surgery. Not only did she regain athleticism, but she improved in aggressiveness, and used her height for headers and to create mismatches.

Chavira could be described as one of the seniors who helped build the program. She not only improved her speed, set-piece kicks and overall tenacity in 2012, but she emerged as a team leader, mostly by example.

She had five goals this season, none bigger than the match-winning header off a corner kick in a come-from-behind win over Belen. She also had 14 assists.

Vanessa Sanchez and Ashley Rubio were the Valencia selections for the All-District 6-4A second team.

Sanchez was chosen as a defender, but she was actually at several positions. Her marked increase in speed, aggressiveness and field awareness made her one of the team's most improved players in 2012.

The versatile senior was part of defensive effort that frustrated the leading scorer from Miyamura, the three-time District 6-4A champions, into getting a yellow card.

Rubio is another improved Jaguar. She was called up to the varsity as an eighth-grader, and the midfielder helped move the ball ahead to the forwards and controlled the middle of the field. She also scored three goals.

On the 6-4A honorable mention team, there are two more senior Jaguars: Brittany Piro and defender Marisa Lopez. Both were captains and multi-year starters.

Piro played goalkeeper this season, but Chavez-Burkhard worked to develop talent there to free up Piro to play an outside midfielder position, which earned her the all-district honor. The senior was Valencia's third-leading scorer with six goals and 15 assists.

Lopez anchored the team's defensive line. Chavez-Burkhard said she was happy the senior's hard work and improvement finally led to her first all-district award.

Samantha Kear, the other senior, also made contributions. So did Marissa Kittridge and Kristina Contratto, who were lost for the season after suffering knee injuries.

Chavez-Burkhard said the majority of the players have grade-point averages at 3.5 or better. The coach said that kind of classroom dedication was evident on the field as well — the Jaguars only won four matches in each of their first two varsity seasons.

"This was the first year I really saw what we practiced get used throughout our matches," said Chavez-Burkhard. "I hope that rubbed off on our younger players."


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