Alexa Dugan did not get many scoring opportunities Saturday, but she made the biggest one count.
Dugan cashed in a highlight-reel goal in the final minute of regulation to give Carlsbad its first girls soccer state championship. The junior’s dramatic shot was the difference as the top-seeded Cavegirls edged No. 2 seed Albuquerque High 1-0 in the Class 5A state tournament final at the University of New Mexico Soccer Stadium.
The goal required patience and a near-perfect touch. Dugan collected a long lead pass just outside the penalty area and outraced two AHS defenders as she crossed the field from left to right. She pivoted and fired across her body, sending the ball into the upper-left net cords where Bulldogs goalkeeper Ainsley Westlake had no chance to reach it.
Less than a minute later, the Cavegirls and their fans were celebrating a state title.
“I had an opportunity to shoot earlier,” Dugan said of her game-winner, “but I didn’t really have a good look. In that situation I felt like I had to get the shot I wanted. I was so happy to see it go in.”
Carlsbad coach Misty Long may have been even happier. After getting doused with water by her players, Long exchanged hugs with just about everyone she could reach during her team’s postgame celebration.
“Freakin’ unbelievable,” she said of the victory. “I really didn’t think this was going to be our year, but these kids worked their tails off and here we are. What a shot by Alexa. Her ball placement is awesome.”
Exhilarating as the win was for Carlsbad, the match left Albuquerque High (7-1) feeling a sickening sense of déja vu. The Bulldogs also dropped a 1-0 decision to Carlsbad in last season’s state quarterfinals – also on a goal by Dugan.
To make matters worse, AHS controlled the ball for most of Saturday’s final and spent much of the final 20 minutes firing away at Carlsbad’s goal. Several shots sailed just high or wide of the frame, and Cavegirls goalie Korrine Bradford was able to stop the rest.
The Bulldogs finished with a 27-11 shot advantage but could not break through in the program’s first state championship match.
“I’m super proud of the way we played,” AHS coach Sara Torrez said. “Now that we’ve been here, we’re ready to come back next year and prove ourselves.”
Gabriela Meraz-Fishbein had two of the Bulldogs’ best scoring chances, sending a header just wide in the opening minutes and redirecting a hard pass from Janiz Castillo toward the net in 69th minute. The latter shot ended up in Bradford’s arms.
“Typical Cavegirl soccer,” Long said. “Keep defending our tails off and just wait for an opportunity.”
It was the seventh shutout posted by Carlsbad this season, but Saturday’s match was not exactly the kind of final Dugan expected.
“Not really,” she said. “Albuquerque High is a good team and they score a lot of goals. I thought it would be close, but I didn’t think one goal would be enough to win. I’m glad it was.”
Bradford finished with 11 saves for Carlsbad. Westlake collected 10 for Albuquerque High.
CLASS 5A GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP
CARLSBAD 1, ALBUQUERQUE HIGH 0
At UNM Soccer Stadium
No. 2 Albuquerque High 0 0 — 0
No. 1 Carlsbad 0 1 — 1
Scoring: 80th minute, C, Alexa Dugan. Shots: A 27, C 11. Corner kicks: A 5, C 2. Saves: C 11 (Korrine Bradford); A 10 (Ainsley Westlake). Records: C 11-0, A 7-1.