Fankam, Hope find each other at the right time - Albuquerque Journal

Fankam, Hope find each other at the right time

Hope Christian girls soccer coach Amy Fankam talks to her team during a recent match vs. Albuquerque Academy at Richard A. Harper Memorial Field. ( Mike Sandoval for the Journal)

Probably, when Amy Fankam finished her playing career at Notre Dame, where she was an All-American, just as she was at La Cueva High School, she could have written her own ticket and coached anywhere she wanted.

“There are times,” she said, “that I wonder if I missed my calling.”

But those times don’t last.

It’s been a fulfilling journey, she said. She got married, had three kids, and she has apprenticed as an assistant coach at both Albuquerque Academy and Hope Christian. A little less than two years ago, the Huskies asked her to take over their program, as she finally became a head coach.

Coaching, she said, was never something that was so far under her skin that it evolved into what she describes as a primary career.

And, to a certain extent, that remains as true as ever, even now as she is the head coach of one of New Mexico’s elite girls soccer programs.

“It’s worked out beautifully so far,” Fankam said. “I got offered the position and I just love and care for the girls so much, I couldn’t imagine anybody else doing it.”

Two-plus decades ago, she was known as Amy Warner, one of the elite talents in the country at La Cueva – where she played for still-current Bears coach Amber Ashcraft – and then later with the Fighting Irish.

She was part of two state championship teams at La Cueva, and next month, the Huskies will have a chance to give her a title as a head coach.

Hope Christian (17-1 after a 10-0 win Tuesday over Valley) is ranked No. 2 in Class 4A behind St. Pius; the Sartans beat the Huskies 2-1 in the spring season state final. Those two might be on another collision course in the fall playoffs, which begin next week.

The state tournament brackets will be announced on Sunday.

Hope Christian’s Ashlyn Salas (22) and Academy’s Ashley Shanks go for the ball during their Oct. 12 game at Academy. (Mike Sandoval/Journal)

Only a blemish last week to Academy has kept Hope Christian from an undefeated season.

“I think we’re all just super soccer smart,” said senior midfielder Hadley Collins, one of only four 12th-graders on the Huskies’ young roster. “It’s so important you trust each other in that way, too.”

Hope will finish its regular season on Thursday against Bernalillo. The Huskies are certain to be a top-four seed at state, which comes with a first-round bye.

The task for Hope Christian is to find a way to climb that final rung on the ladder after that extremely young side came up just short in the spring. And this team remains young, on paper, but that’s not an updated description of them now.

“Last year we were close, but this year is a longer season, so we had more time to bond and know each other,” said sophomore forward Savanah Sanchez, Hope’s leading goal scorer and one of the most dangerous offensive players in the state. Her two goals Tuesday give her 38 so far this fall. “We’ve talked about that many times, (trying to get back into the championship game). We have to remember (the spring) so we never feel that again.”

The Huskies have thrived on their possession game, plus a chemistry everyone says is an integral component to their general DNA.

But beyond the skill exists another factor for the upcoming state tournament, Collins said. “We can’t get freaked out,” she said. “We have to keep our composure.”

In the spring, Fankam said, the Huskies got caught up playing St. Pius’ style rather than their own.

“We lost a little bit of that in the state championship game,” she said. “We reverted to a style of soccer that we weren’t as good at as Pius was.”

Maintaining that tactical discipline, Fankam said, could be the difference for Hope in the postseason.

“We’re comfortable, we’re confident, we move the ball, we take care of the ball. That’s the team we are,” she said, adding, “Their physical ability is beyond their years.”

And it’s a team she believes in, wholeheartedly.

“I think when we play well,” Fankam said with a smile, “no one can beat us. I’d take us against anyone in the state.”

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