KIRTLAND — It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but the No. 6 Kirtland Central girls soccer team did just what it needed come playoff time — survive and advance.
The Lady Broncos struck for a late goal when Hanalysa Thompson scored with 4:35 left in the game to push Kirtland past No. 11 Valencia 2-1 Saturday at Broncos Stadium.
“They played tough,” said Kirtland head coach Leonel Camacho of Valencia. “They were on us and defended well. We just couldn’t get any rhythm. I knew we could win because we were the better team. It was just tough to get that goal, but persistence paid off. Eventually, when you’re in their final third so much, something is going to happen.”
Kirtland took the lead 10 minutes into the first half on a goal from Zoey Hooper.
Hooper blocked a clearance attempt from Valencia keeper Haley Baca and fired her shot into the open net.
The Lady Jaguars knotted the score at 1-1 when Norene Archuleta header in a corner kick with just under 18 minutes left in the first half.
Neither team was able to get much going on offense in the second half.
Valencia seemed content to play six or seven players behind the ball to stifle the Kirtland attack, but that left the Lady Jaguars shorthanded up front and unable to pose a threat to the Lady Bronco goal.
Finally, with just under five minutes left in regulation, a deflected pass found its way to Thompson, who released a shot from just outside the penalty spot. The Valencia keeper got a hand to it, but was unable to keep the ball out of the net.
“It came at a critical point and just to get the shot on frame was the key,” Thompson said of the goal.
Both teams had six shots on goal in the match.
The win sets up Kirtland’s fourth meeting of the year with No. 3 Aztec in quarterfinals.
The Lady Tigers were victorious in the previous three matchups.
“We’re excited, but it’s tough to play them for a fourth time,” Camacho said. “We just have to go out there and see what we can do.”
The game is scheduled for 11:15 a.m., Thursday at the APS Soccer Complex in Albuquerque.