By Arnie Leshin
The scene is set, the top-seeded St. Michael’s girls have gotten this far and will play host to tournament-tested Albuquerque Sandia Prep in today’s 1A/3A semifinals at the Christian Brothers Athletic Complex, with the match scheduled for a 4 p.m. start.
The Lady Horsemen, under first-year head coach Alfonso Camarena, bring in a 6-0-1 overall record. They won each match by shutouts, with the tie, a scoreless one, coming at 4A Los Alamos. Yes, they played their schedule but it wasn’t quite the same as what 4th-seeded Sandia Prep played, which is why the nine-time state champions have a deceiving 3-4-1 record in this abbreviated shortened season caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“My girls know this,” Camarena says, “they know this is a very tough opponent. We played them in our season opener at their place and won 2-1, which is the only goal we gave up, so we will have to play our best to come out ahead again.”
While St. Michael’s has outscored its opponents, 38-1, the Sundevils turned in 19 goals and yielded a dozen, but their schedule was challenging. They had to take the field against 2nd-seeded Albuquerque Bosque Charter School, 4A Albuquerque Hope Christian, and 3rd-seeded Socorro, the only one of these schools that hasn’t won a state title. When Hope was in 3A, it won back-to-back 1-0 overtime finals over the Lady Horsemen, and Sandia Prep did it once.
But Camarena doesn’t have to worry about the Huskies, only the Sundevils.
“All four teams are good,” he says, “that’s why they make up the field, and we are happy to play this match at home, but this will no doubt be our toughest test so far.”
Versus Bosque, the Sundevils split a pair, losing 2-1 and then winning impressively, 3-0, this past Saturday. Against Socorro, they lost 1-0 in overtime and played a 1-1 double overtime match. They were shut down by Hope, 4-0, but trailed only 1-0 after one half.
Under former head coach Ed Velie, St. Michael’s won state in 1997, 2001, 2007, and 2009.
In the other semis to set up Friday’s state championships at the University of New Mexico’s soccer complex, the host team, Bosque, comes in at 7-2 and Socorro at 6-3-1. They are very familiar with each other, having already played three times, splitting the first two, with Socorro winning 3-2 in overtime and losing by the same score to the Bobcats. In a third match, it resulted in a 1-1 tie played in two overtimes.
Socorro also won 5-4 over Los Alamos in OT, and bowed 2-0 to 5A Clovis.
But just as Hope Christian doesn’t matter to St. Michael’s, the same with Bosque and Socorro. If the Lady Horsemen can get past this one and reach the final, then Camarena will be concerned.