SANTA ANA PUEBLO — In quarterfinals a day earlier, the No. 2 Albuquerque Academy Chargers (17-4-1) had an effective walkover while the No. 5 Los Alamos Hilltoppers narrowly advanced.
In Thursday’s semifinals, the Chargers were pushed to the limit, advancing 5-4 in a penalty shootout while the Hilltoppers romped behind a four-goal outburst from Arthur Steinkamp.
The two will meet on Friday afternoon in the 4A championship at the soccer tournament complex.
No. 2 ABQ Academy 1 No. 3 Santa Teresa 1, full time (Academy 5-4 in shootout): During the semifinal against Albuquerque Academy, Santa Teresa coach Luis Villalobos had a vice grip on a tennis ball to assuage tension. He probably should have bought wholesale from Wimbledon.
The Chargers controlled possession for most of the game, but some sloppy passes and poor deliveries in the final third quashed attempts on goal. The Desert Warriors defense stood tall winning one-on-one tackles and stifling the Chargers attack. Academy got impatient at times settling for optimistic shots outside the area.
“These guys are the most tactically diverse team in the state,” Villalbos said. “These guys will do anything, these guys can play anything,”
Academy had a look at goal in the opening seconds of the second half before getting the final shot all wrong. Santa Teresa stung the crossbar off a free kick in the 43rd minute.
In the 71st, a fine save kept out an initial header, but the Desert Warriors couldn’t clear their lines and Academy’s Gabe Saiz found the net amidst the goal mouth chaos.
“We just invited them down the wide and closed down the middle,” Santa Teresa senior Bryan Vargas said. “We didn’t know how they play, but we saw … we were killing them on the counter.”
A counterattack down the right side drew Santa Teresa level. Senior Angel Arzola made a slick run and picked out senior Andrew Morales, who had cleverly pulled off the back of the Academy defender to free himself and bundle home the cross.
Academy took the initiative in overtime but couldn’t find the elusive golden goal after getting the finishing touches wrong.
“We were confident we wanted to end it as soon as we could once we got into overtime,” Academy senior Jackson Taylor said. “On and off for us today we just couldn’t find it, their goalkeeper and their defense was pretty good.”
The penalty shootout was a virtual clinic with goals hit with power and placement. The difference was a tame spot kick on Santa Teresa’s fourth attempt right down the middle for an easy save. Taylor clinched the win clipping the grass to side netting with a drive low to the goalie’s right for the fifth goal.
“Some days we’re off; we didn’t finish them off,” Academy coach Laney Kolek said. “At the end of the day they put away the penalty kicks that’s part of the match.”
No. 2 ABQ def. No. 3 Santa Teresa, shootout, 5-4
Santa Teresa 0 1—1
ABQ Academy 0 1—1
Scoring: 68th, AA, Gabe Saiz (unassisted); 71st, ST, Andrew Morales (Angel Arzola). Shootout goals: AA, Tai Durell, Mateo Centenera, Aaron Hill, Neven Zapatka, Jackson Taylor. AA goalie Yannick Schlenzig recorded a save on ST’s fourth attempt. Shots: ST, 5; AA, 13. Saves: ST, Erick Najera, 12; AA, Schlenzig, 4. Corner kicks: ST, 5; AA, 11. Records: ST, 15-4-2; AA, 17-4-1.
No. 5 Los Alamos 7, No. 9 Los Lunas 0: Los Alamos survived an early onslaught down the left side of its defense from the pacey Los Lunas attack. But the Hilltoppers kept its defensive shape to anticipate and close down danger.
“We were expecting lots of balls down the sides and over the top and we prepared for it,” Los Alamos senior defender Jesse Prime said. “The first half we were less dynamic than we needed to be. The second half we started moving the ball and they couldn’t keep up.”
The Hilltoppers opened the scoring in the 11th minute when junior Dakota Duran beat the Tigers goalie to a through ball and cut inside to slot into the open net.
“We just got kind of lackadaisical on defense, just a step slower on defense,” said Los Lunas coach Eric Chavez, whose team knocked off top-seeded St. Pius a day earlier. “We needed to support the attack. Our central midfielders not getting up in the attack and help the forwards.”
Los Alamos added a second goal before halftime after jumping on a midfield turnover and playing senior Arthur Steinkamp clean on goal.
“I started to see tendencies and that helped me keep scoring and piling on the goals,” Steinkamp said. “Offensively just keeping the ball and moving around when we started moving the ball.”
The Los Alamos talisman Steinkamp added three more in the second half, including two of free kicks shortly after halftime as the Hilltoppers booked its place in the finals.
“Arthur was a huge difference. He’s a special player,” Los Alamos coach Rob Blue said. “We’ve got guys that get in behind and see if there’s an opportunity to get to it. What we tried is draw them out so we could move the ball a little bit better.”
(Click here for the 4A boys bracket.)