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Rams, La Cueva Evenly Matched

The La Cueva-Rio Rancho state quarterfinal game in Class 5A girls soccer is probably worthy of another round.

So says Ram coach Uwe Balzis.

“Worth a final four,” Balzis said. “Not a final eight.”

Fourth-seeded Rio Rancho (14-6) and the fifth-seeded Bears (14-5) meet at 3:15 this afternoon in the 5A quarterfinals.

The winner faces No. 1 Sandia or No. 8 Cibola in Friday’s semifinals.

The Rams beat La Cueva 3-1 in the regular season.

“They presented lots of speed on the wings that we hadn’t seen all season,” La Cueva coach Amber Ashcraft said. “And they scored on us from two set pieces. So we’re just making fixes on those things.”

While Rio Rancho had a first-round bye, La Cueva whipped Valley 7-2 last weekend.

“I think it will be a totally even match,” Balzis said. “It will be a defensive battle and then we have to see if we can penetrate and put in a goal or two.”

La Cueva was the second-place team in District 2-5A to Sandia.

“I don’t think there are any heavy favorites now,” Ashcraft said.

Junior Shayla Malecki led the Bears in scoring this year, with 14 goals and 36 points.

Brianna Hemmert had a team-leading 15 goals for Rio Rancho.

CLEVELAND GIRLS: The 10th-seeded Storm easily handled No. 7 Albuquerque High 4-0 in last weekend’s first-round game.

Cleveland (12-6) takes on second-seeded Las Cruces (18-2) at 3:45 p.m. today.

The winner faces No. 3 Volcano Vista or No. 11 Mayfield in the semifinals Friday.

“You know, all Las Cruces teams are very fast and very physical,” Storm coach Amanda Lovato said. “That’s something we’ll have to be on our toes about.”

The teams did not play each other in the regular season.

And Cleveland, despite the No. 10 seed, believes it has as much of a shot to win the blue trophy Saturday as anyone.

“It could go a number of different ways,” Lovato said. “We have good momentum in our favor.”

Cleveland is expecting two senior starters who missed the AHS game — Caitlyn Espinosa and Julissa Hunte — to be back in the lineup today.

Las Cruces is paced by senior forward Catarina Acosta, who was in the top five in scoring in 5A this year, with 27 goals and 66 points.

Emily Cubbage leads the Storm in goals with 18.