After a pandemic-related hiatus during the last school year, the Journal’s All-Metro teams are back.
Soccer is up first, with our volleyball and football All-Metro teams scheduled to be released next weekend.
Soccer usually proves to be the most neighborly of our All-Metro teams, insomuch as there are more athletes from the smaller-school ranks on our soccer list than any other sport.
That list is headed by University of New Mexico signee Mercedes Morris, a senior forward who scored 22 goals for the Cougars this fall. Another future Lobo, Corrine Whitsell (11 goals, 19 assists), is one of two Cibola first-team midfielders.
The other is Emily Aguilar, who has signed with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. She registered 16 goals last season. She was a United Soccer Coaches fall All-American.
Up top, Morris has two potent scorers next to her.
Junior Anna Babinski from Albuquerque Academy was one of New Mexico’s, and the region’s, elite scorers in the fall, and her 52 goals led all state classifications. Eldorado senior Taylor Rittman delivered 35 assists for the Eagles in addition to 15 goals.
Also in the midfield is junior Ashlyn Salas (16G, 14A), the anchor for a Hope Christian side that won the Class 4A state championship last month. The fourth midfielder is Sandia junior Jordan Candelaria, who scored 13 goals in 15 games.
On the back line, it’s Volcano Vista senior Kennedy Brown, who has signed with UNM and is a player many coaches believed to be the best defender in the state. She is joined there by La Cueva senior Jazzy Gibson and St. Pius senior Enmarae Torres. La Cueva senior Erica Ihlein is between the pipes after yielding just seven goals for the Bears.
BOYS: Sandia reached the Class 5A state final, and the Matadors have a trio of first-team selections.
Forwards from that group, senior Christian Baker (19G, 12A) and junior Connor Cousins (19G) comprise two-thirds of the front line, along with the outstanding Neven Zapatka (20 goals and 13 helpers for 4A state champ Albuquerque Academy).
La Cueva’s Brendan Baird was an all-regional selection this fall, and, coach Easy Jimenez said, narrowly missed All-America status. He had 37 goals and 20 assists.
Academy’s other 20-goal scorer, senior Oliver Kumar, is also part of the first-team midfield, as are Atrisco Heritage’s versatile Stefan Molinar (14G, 10A) and the third Sandia first-teamer, senior Dylan Rivas, who had a dozen goals and 10 assists.
Rio Rancho senior Kaden Schufft was named to the High School All-American Game, which was played Saturday in Knoxville, Tennessee. He anchors our first-team back line.
With him are La Cueva senior Aidan Romero and big Volcano Vista senior Alex Dixon, two stellar players. The 6-foot-2 Dixon was also occasionally influential up top for the Hawks, scoring 12 goals.
Goaltending was a difficult position to choose; our first-team selection is Volcano Vista senior Evan Kowalski.
As always, I hope the players who didn’t make our final cut don’t take offense; there simply is not enough room in our format to reward everyone. If anything, it proves that there remains a rich pool of soccer talent in the metro area.