By Arnie Leshin
It was a fairly even first half, which has been the case whenever St. Michael’s meets up with Albuquerque Sandia Prep in girl’s soccer.
But the second always tells the story, it’s when the 3-time defending state champion Sundevils turn it up a notch, keeping the Lady Horsemen to long shots that can’t get past five-year senior goalkeeper Samantha Jeffries, while they attack down at the other end to score three times and carry off a 3-0 win Tuesday afternoon at the Christian Brothers Athletic Complex.
With top-ranked Sandia Prep able to accomplish this, it was the seventh-straight win over St. Michael’s since a 2-1 defeat in 2016. And since than, the Sundevils have pitched six shutouts that included a trio of 1-0 scores last season, two the previous year, and this current one. Two straight times, they have blanked the Lady Horsemen, 1-0, in the championship final.
Last season it was Anthony Cassados as head coach of St. Michael’s. Now, the program is under the direction of new head coach Maggie Feil.
So, with it still scoreless 48:30 into the second half, Prep senior forward Isa Gilbert, with a light brace on her right leg, found herself one-on-one with goalie Milena Keene, a sophomore in her second year in goal, and it was no contest as Gilbert booted the ball to the left of Keene and into the goal with all the points it were going to need.
At 54:10, it was freshman midfielder Maddie Hashagen and two teammates crowding Keene from right outside the goal, and Hashagen faked one way and kicked it left of the keeper, and it was 2-0.
While the Lady Horsemen were hitting long line drives and high and wide shots in the direction of Jeffries that she either caught or knocked out of the way, the visitors had one more surge.
With 74:11 remaining, junior midfielder Shawntel Jaramillo, raced to within 20 yards of the St. Michael’s goal with no defender interfering, and kicked a liner to the left of Keene and that made for the final score.
St. Michael’s did not have a single corner kick, while the Sundevils had three. In the first half, the Lady Horsemen took six shots, same as Sandia Prep, but neither team could get a decent scoring shot.
Keane stopped two hard shots that fell right into her hands, and another time batted a ball that bounced off her out of bounds. There was also a shot that bounded over her head and banged off the top of the post.
And so, the regular-season final for the Lady Horsemen found them at 15-5-1 overall and 6-2-1 in District A/1A/3A, while the Sundevils still have a district tune-up home match versus Santa Fe Indian School, followed by a non district visit from Los Alamos. They will no doubt get a top seed when the NMAA announces its state tournament pairings.
St. Michael’s, too, will get a high seed, probably a No. 3 behind Socorro, which defeated it 4-3 at home. The three other setbacks for the Lady Horsemen was the 2-1 pervious one at Sandia Prep, and the non district shutout against Albuquerque St. Pius X.
There was also a 2-2, two overtime tie in Albuquerque versus district opponent Bosque Charter School. But the 3-2 triumph over Bosque at home provides St. Michael’s with the tiebreaker and second place.
Said second year Sandia Prep head coach Matthew Westerland: “St. Michael’s is a great team. Nothing comes easy against them, and that’s why we always have a tough go with them. When we played them at home earlier, we led 1-0 at halftime, they tied it and we won it late in the game.
“Our style is to keep them from attacking our goal and pepper shots, while we look for breakaways that get us on attack against their goalkeeper. I though we played good defense on this narrow field.”
His defense did a good job containing St. Michael’s senior midfielder Daisy Ranney Smith, crowding her and keeping her from the ball. Lady Horsemen 8th grade defender Cameron Gantt, youngest child of school president Taylor Gantt, fought to keep the ball in play and often had to contend with older and bigger Sandia Prep players.
She is one of three eighth graders on the roster, and they all see plenty of action on an 21-player roster that includes 18 underclassmen. Daisy Ranney Smith, junior Olivia Farrar, and Keene are the team tri-captains.
Three of Sandia Prep’s top players are seniors, including goaltender Jeffries
now in her fifth year as the starter. The others are midfielder Lauryn Biddle
and defender Austin Tackman, and these three are the tri-captains.
After the state seeding are announced, the Nov.1stand 2nd opening
round games will be at the sites of the higher seeds. The quarterfinals will
than be contested at the Bernalillo Soccer Complex, and they are scheduled
for Nov. 6. The semifinals are the following day, and the finals on Nov. 8.
NOTES: The subject is road construction near a state tournament venue, and this includes the Bernalillo Soccer Complex. US 550 Phase One construction from NM 313 to NM 528 is planned to begin on Oct. 28, and this may cause delays getting to the soccer venue, so it is advised to make plans to arrive early.
Information regarding this can be accessed at www.keepmoving550.com.