By Arnie Leshin
Round one Santa Fe Prep-St. Michael’s girl’s soccer is set for Saturday at the Christian Brothers Athletic Complex, with the match scheduled for 11 a.m.
Last season belonged to the Griffins in head coach Stephanie Coppola’s sixth year there. After losing 16 in a row that included nine shutouts applied by the Lady Horsemen on the pitch, it was Prep time as it won all three matches and ended St. Michael’s lone streak of district victories.
The Griffins finished at 15-1-1, losing in the 1/3A state semifinals, 1-0, to Socorro in overtime. St.Michael’s wound up at 15-7 and missed the state tournament semis for the first time in four seasons.
Now, under new head coach Anthony Cassaro, their third in the last five years, the Lady Horsemen (8-1-1) seek to avenge last year’s defeats to Prep.
Looking back, they lost 2-1 at home, with the Griffins scoring once in each half after a 1-1 halftime tie. Next came a 5-3 setback at Sun Mountain Field as Prep broke on top at its home field with four first-half goals and then held off a late rush by St. Michael’s. In the opening round of the state tournament, the Griffins prevailed, 1-0, in overtime.
That leaves Prep now at 4-1 as it plays its first district match. Senior Lark O’Hora has been stellar as the goalkeeper and junior Hayden Colfax, seniors Amy Stranahan and Taylor Lincoln, the co-captains, have led the way in the field on a roster that lists six seniors, three sophomores, four freshmen and three 8th graders.
The Griffins last season made the state Final Four for the first time since 2005 when they blanked St. Michael’s, 1-0, in the championship game, with Renee Ross as the head coach. Overall, Prep has gone 85-71 through the years, with seven winning ones.
The Lady Horsemen have been in the Final Four six times and won in 2001, 2007 and 2008, all under head coach Ed Veile. Their overall record through the years rounds out to 115-36-2, and they’ve never had a losing season while going 58-4 in district play, and winning 13 of 15 times against the Griffins.
Cassaro, who is from upstate New York and played soccer while in California, is having a blast despite an area unfamiliar to him. He inherited a squad of six seniors, four sophomores, three freshmen and four 8th graders.
They opened with a 1-1 tie at Santa Fe High and then went on a roll, winning their next five outings via shutouts, with only Valencia putting up a fight in a 2-0 defeat. Then came a 5-1 loss at Los Alamos.
After a 4-0 shutdown of Portales, St. Michael’sturned back Kirtland Central, 8-3, and Capital, 7-1.
Its keepers have split time between senior Alice Pittard and freshman Mylena Keece, while senior Claire Lee has been the leading scorer as a striker, and striker sophomore co-captain Olivia Farrah and striker sophomore Frances Schneider and junior co-captain Daisy Smith have also contributed at this point.
The Griffins, in turn, edged Capital, 2-1, in an overtime opener, lost to Los Alamos, 3-0, thanblanked Taos, 6-0, won 4-1 over East Mountain, and blanked the young Monte del Sol team, 10-0.
It’s the first district test for Cassaro, but Coppola has been through a number of them, with her daughter and two sons competing for St. Michael’s.