Most of the usual suspects fill the high school boys and girls soccer state tournament brackets as the teams get ready to open play this weekend at the better-seeded home sites.
Notably, usual contender Capital boys are on the outside looking in, while crosstown rival Santa Fe is in for the first time since 2012.
The No. 4 Los Alamos girls (14-5) in 4A and the boys for No. 2 Robertson (13-5) and No. 3 Monte del Sol (13-3-1) in 1A-3A were the only qualifying local schools to earn top-four bids and will get to sit out this weekend with automatic byes into the final eight round, which starts up Wednesday at the soccer complex at the Santa Ana Pueblo near Bernalillo.
For the other teams, here are capsules of their opening round matches and possible playoff scenarios moving into next week:
No. 12 Santa Fe (13-6) at No. 5 Clovis (16-2-1) Saturday 2 p.m.
A senior-laden bunch, the Demons have been in playoff mode for several weeks, knowing they had to finish strong to earn a postseason berth. And Santa Fe did just that, avenging an earlier defeat to the Capital’s Jaguars and finishing off the season with a win against Rio Grande. The Demons are powerful offensively, led by Matt Hunter, whose 29 goals was top in the class. With eight assists to total 66 points, he’s second overall in the class. Kiran Smelser has been a quality second option, with nine goals, while Sebastian Lopez also has eight assists. The Wildcats are also no slouches when it comes to putting the ball in the net as Elias Ortega has 21 goals and eight assists, and Kade Jones checks in with 14 goals and nine assists. The winner will advance to meet No. 4 and defending state champ Albuquerque High (15-2-1).
No. 5 Los Alamos (13-6-1) vs. No. 12 Goddard (10-8) Saturday 1 p.m.
The Hilltoppers are used to battling for contention and this year should be no exception behind a powerful lineup led by top scorer Arthur Steinkamp. Steinkamp led 4A in goals, with 36, and by adding nine assists was second in points with 81. Aiden Semelsberger was a big cog in the offense as well, with a state-best 25 assists; he also scored 16 goals. In all, Los Alamos scored 85 goals while allowing just 25. Jacob Majors and Jaxson Martines took almost equal turns in net for the ‘Toppers and both can be counted to make the big save. Los Alamos also is well-tested after facing a number of tournament teams throughout its season and Goddard in the elevation should pose few problems. With a win, the ‘Toppers would meet No. 4 Chaparral (13-6-1).
No. 6 Taos vs. No. 11 Highland Saturday, 1 p.m.
It’s tough to get a read on the Tigers as they did not exactly face a challenging schedule, with their best results coming in a scoreless draw with Los Alamos and a 2-1 win over Capital. But Taos does have a wunderkind in standout eighth-grader Alex Waggoner, who led 4A in points, with 34 goals and 20 helpers. He forms a dynamic duo with Patrick Penos, who had 22 goals and 12 assists, to create the state’s most dangerous pair of forwards. Throw in Aidan Heflin, with 12 goals and six assists, and opposing teams truly have a tiger by the tail. How much of that production, however, can be attributed to a weak slate will be revealed quickly as Highland has been toughened by a season taking on many of Albuquerque’s best. The winner meets No. 3 Santa Teresa (15-3-2).
No. 5 Tierra Encantada (11-2) vs. No. 12 Desert Academy (7-11-1) Today 4 p.m.
Based on the regular season, the Alacranes should have little to worry about from their crosstown and District 1-1A/3A rival Wildcats. Tierra Encantada came out on top in both meetings, 3-0 and 9-0. The Alacranes have been getting solid production from Danny Pachardo and Carlos Madrid throughout the season, and reached the state tournament for a second straight season. Meanwhile, Desert Academy struggled toward the end of the season, losing five of its final eight games. Sebastian Pearson-Kramer leads a gritty offense, with 26 goals and seven assists, and Cole Sullivan added 11 goals and six assists. The winner will take on No. 4 Hatch Valley (14-5-1)
No. 6 St. Michael’s (12-7-1) vs. No. 11 Santa Fe Prep (3-13) Saturday 3:30 p.m.
Once again, on paper, this appears like a shoo-in for the Horsemen, which won both meetings with crosstown and District 2-1A/3A rival Blue Griffins 5-0 and 2-1. But there is something about the playoffs that gets Santa Fe Prep juiced for a supreme effort. The Griffins won state championships in 2014 and 2016. This is, however, not a typical Prep squad as leading goal scorer Luke Stein has but 10. St. Mike’s, however, has a well-rounded attack led by Wesley Graham’s 15 goals and nine assist, while Berkeley Reynolds has 10 goals and 12 assists, and Justice Johnson has 10 goals and six helpers. The winner goes on to meet No. 3 Monte del Sol (13-3-1).
No. 5 Santa Fe Prep (10-5-1) vs. No. 12 Santa Fe Indian School (2-17-1) Saturday 1 p.m.
It is a first state tournament appearance for the Braves, who snuck in despite just two wins thanks to a depleted number of teams in the class. And awaiting them are the tournament-tough Blue Griffins who have been coming of age with a loaded roster of veterans. Lynn Robey leads the Prep attack, with 19 goals and 15 assists, while Blake Trevisani has 13 goals and five assists, and Hayden Colfax has 11 goals and nine assists. The Blue Griffins won their meeting this season 5-1 and were awarded a forfeit victory in their other scheduled game. Iesha Coriz led SFIS with three goals and three assists. The winner meets No. 4 Hatch Valley (17-2-1).
No. 6 St. Michael’s (13-6-1) vs. No. 11 Academy Technology and Classics (8-6-1) Saturday 1:30 p.m.
There is another first-timer for the Phoenix, who won their first six games to get a great jump on the season before finishing up 0-2-1. And in the Lady Horsemen, ATC has a tough task ahead. St. Mike’s is well tested, giving top-seed Sandia Prep two tough games, losing each by a goal, with similar results against Santa Fe Prep. Claire Lee has been riding herd on the Horsemen offense, as her 26 goals are tied for second in the state and, with 11 assists, her 63 points are also second. Lee is ably complemented by eighth-grader Grace Sandoval, with 13 goals and four assists, and Daisy Smith, with 12 goals and nine assists. Xitlally Estrada Perez tops the Phoenix offense, with 11 goals, while Maggie Rittmeyer added nine goals and four assists. The winner meets No. 3 Bosque (12-6-1).
No. 9 Robertson (7-12-1) at No. 8 East Mountain (8-7-1) Saturday 11 a.m.
Lacking some of the firepower of previous years, the Cardinals are nonetheless a dangerous squad behind Marcicela Montoya’s 16 goals and eight assists. Eighth-grader Amber Doss added 11 goals and three assists, while Gabriella Montoya had four goals and 10 helpers. Playing on the small, tilted field that the Timberwolves call home is always a challenge, but they rely on their defensive prowess to stay in games. East Mountain’s leading scorer is Emma Rocco, with 12 goals and two assists. The winner faces top-seeded Sandia Prep (13-4-2).