Prep soccer in New Mexico is, on the whole, as competitive as it ever has been.
Take District 1-6A, for example, where the defending boys state champion, Volcano Vista, didn’t even qualify this year, and another, Cleveland, is hosting a playoff game for the first time.
That’s just one storyline among many as first-round matchups in 6A, 5A and 1A-4A unfold today and Saturday.
The top four seeds in each of the six divisions have byes until next Thursday’s quarterfinals.
The top first-rounder is Saturday at 11 a.m. at the APS Complex, when No. 8 Cibola meets No. 9 Eldorado.
These two also met on Opening Day, with the Eagles winning 1-0 in overtime in the metro tournament.
“We’re pretty much identical to each other and that’s why we got an 8-9 with them,” Cibola coach Cameron Clarke said.
The Cougars (12-5-1) were the No. 1 seed last year, but were knocked out in the quarters by Sandia.
“Soccer is one of those fun sports where it doesn’t matter. Anyone can walk away a winner. We’re just happy to be in,” Clarke said.
Sandia (10-6-2), the 6 seed, is in action at 6 tonight against No. 11 Clovis at the complex.
Cleveland (9-6-5), at No. 7, is the highest it has ever been for state. It will host No. 10 Hobbs at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s a big step in the right direction, I’ll tell you that,” Storm coach Shaun Gill said. “This was one of the goals we set as a team at the beginning of the season, to host a playoff game.”
Cleveland finished second in 1-6A to Rio Rancho. The Storm only surrendered three goals in eight district matches, going 3-1-4 in league play.
“For us to get second in district this year was another huge accomplishment,” Gill said.
- In 5A, St. Pius, seeded sixth, plays host to No. 11 Los Lunas at 4 this afternoon. These two met in the season opener, with the Sartans prevailing 1-0.
Valencia, the 10 seed, visits No. 7 Capital, also at 4 p.m. today.
- Hope Christian’s boys are home at 3 p.m. today to Bloomfield. The Huskies are seeded fifth in 1A-4A.
Four metro-area schools are in the first round, highlighted by No. 5 Cibola, which plays host to 12th-seeded Carlsbad at 1 p.m. Saturday at the APS Complex.
Also Saturday, No. 9 Sandia is at No. 8 Las Cruces and No. 11 Hobbs kicks off an Eagle-Storm doubleheader with a matchup against sixth-seeded Cleveland.
Today at 5 p.m. at the complex – not at Volcano Vista, where the school has had issues with its grass field – it is the seventh-seeded Hawks (12-5-1) and No. 10 Clovis in what is believed to be the first meeting between these programs.
“We had a great start, but we had a bump in the road with more than a handful of injuries,” Volcano Vista coach Samantha Lucero said. “But we’ve finally worked through them, and everybody is coming back healthy.”
The Hawks started quickly, winning its first six – including a win over Eldorado (the No. 2 playoff seed) in the finals of the metro tournament, and then a close victory over 5A power St. Pius the next week.
But Volcano Vista finished fourth in five-team 1-6A, which has consistently been the state’s deepest and toughest district.
“Takes a little pressure off,” Lucero said of her team’s seeding position.
- In 5A, the three Valencia County schools have first-round road games Saturday. No. 10 Valencia is at No. 7 Piedra Vista, No. 9 Los Lunas goes to No. 8 Centennial and No. 12 Belen goes to fifth-seeded Los Alamos.
- Three of the top five seeds are from District 1 in the 1A-4A field, and all three are in the same top half of the bracket.
“Much tougher,” Bosque coach Jacob Cortez said of the top half as compared to the bottom.
The fifth-seeded Bobcats have a tough road if they want to make a run. If they dispatch another district rival, No. 12 Rehoboth, on Saturday afternoon in the first round, then fourth-seeded Sandia Prep is next in the quarters.
The winner there would likely get No. 1 Hope Christian in the semifinals. Bosque (13-5-2) lost a goal differential to Sandia Prep after the two tied for second behind Hope in district.
“We’re definitely not afraid and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” Cortez said.
East Mountain, seeded No. 7, is home to No. 10 Kirtland Central at 10 a.m. Saturday.