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Prep state soccer returning to Santa Ana

That the high school state soccer tournaments were moving this year was a given.

On Monday, it was made official – they are going back to the Santa Ana Pueblo.

As has been rumored, the New Mexico Activities Association in November will take one of their premier postseason events to the huge complex of grass fields just west of Bernalillo.

“I think this shows that whether it’s soccer or football or basketball or softball, we are listening to the coaches,” NMAA executive director Sally Marquez said. “And that we are a membership-led organization, and that we want to do what’s best for the game.”

The tournament has since 2009 been at the APS Soccer Complex on Albuquerque’s West Side. It was previously held at the Santa Ana Pueblo before the NMAA moved it to the APS facility near Volcano Vista High School.

The sports-specific committee for soccer has been trying to get the season’s most important weekend onto larger fields for years. As Marquez has said, it wasn’t so much the unforgiving artificial surfaces at the APS Complex that drove this move as it was the band-box size of the fields and the unnaturally fast speed of the games on those fields.

Many fans have long disliked the APS facility, not only for the size of the playing surfaces but because so many people must stand to watch games due to extremely limited bleacher space. But the move to the Santa Ana Pueblo won’t come without drawbacks; the APS facility is more fan friendly in terms of the proximity of the four fields, and there are also centralized restrooms and concessions.

“They (coaches) just wanted a different venue,” Marquez said.

The Santa Ana Pueblo’s fields are natural grass and they are far more spacious than the APS fields.

Marquez said a majority of the games at this year’s second week of state, Nov. 3-5, will be contested in the daytime.

She said the latest soccer action the first two days – quarterfinals and semifinals in six divisions, three for each gender – would conclude no later than about 6 p.m.

However, on the final day of the season, Nov. 5, there will be some night action, since the facility is not available that day until early in the afternoon. Ordinarily, the NMAA stages two of its six championship games in the mid- to late-morning. That won’t happen this year, and the soccer should be continuing until about 8 p.m. that day, Marquez said.

The NMAA also looked into the Field of Dreams complex in Las Cruces – which is also a past state tournament site – but because of construction issues, it wouldn’t be available until about the middle of November.

“After this year,” Marquez said, “we’ll evaluate Bernalillo and make the best determination for the soccer community.”

Marquez said the cost to play the tournament near Bernalillo will exceed what the NMAA paid to stage it at the APS Complex, but she declined to offer financial specifics.

“A sizable increase in cost,” Marquez said.

First-round games at state (Oct. 28-29) still would be held at the home fields of higher seeds, which in some cases could be the APS Complex.