Hope Christian’s Bella Starkweather (19) and Kirtland Central’s Tamia Maryboy (11) battle for possession, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, at Bronco
Hope Christian's Bella Starkweather (19) and Kirtland Central's Tamia Maryboy (11) battle for possession, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, at Bronco Stadium in Kirtland. ( Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

KIRTLAND — The Kirtland Central girls' soccer team couldn't halt its recent slide, falling to 3A No. 1 Hope Christian.

The Lady Huskies scored three times in the second half to defeat the Lady Broncos 3-0 Saturday at Bronco Stadium, handing KCHS its fifth straight loss.

"It's a good game for us to play. I'd rather play the tough game that will make us better players, but it's tough to lose," said KCHS head coach Leonel Camacho.

The Lady Broncos (10-8) held Hope Christian (14-3) without a goal in the first half, but the Lady Huskies controlled the pace of play during the opening 40 minutes, outshooting KCHS 14-0.

The Hope Christian offense finally broke through the Lady Broncos' defense less than five minutes into the second half when Avila Lewis scored to give the Lady Huskies a 1-0 lead.

"We just had to find that space," Hope Christian head coach Ronald Espinoza said. "Once we figured out what they were doing system-wise, things started to go our way."

Hope Christian added a pair of goals within two minutes of each other late in the second half to put the game out of reach.

Haylie Walters scored with 9:20 left in the game to give Hope a 2-0 lead, then Bella Starkweather headed in a third goal for the Lady Huskies 1:47 later.

Camacho said it's not surprising that the Lady Huskies are the favorite for the 3A state championship. He said it was hard to find a weakness in their squad.

"It's a combination of everything. They have really good touch. They have good tactics. They're well-disciplined and organized," he said.

Hope Christian ended the contest with a 24-3 shot advantage against KCHS.

This was the third game Hope has played against District 1-4A teams, previously beating Farmington and losing to Aztec in overtime.

Espinoza likes scheduling games against teams from San Juan Country and said they help to prepare his team for the state tournament.

"It's very strong, and you can tell the talent level in this area has increased in the last 10 years. It helps us a lot," he said.

Kirtland Central’s Tosharra Villegas (6) is challenged by Albuquerque Academy’s Annie Spahn (15) for possession of the ball, Saturday, Oct. 19,
Kirtland Central's Tosharra Villegas (6) is challenged by Albuquerque Academy's Annie Spahn (15) for possession of the ball, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, at Bronco Stadium in Kirtland. ( Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

Hope also has a game scheduled against Piedra Vista on Saturday in Albuquerque.

Camacho said it will be difficult to keep the Lady Broncos' spirits up after a string of defeats as the teams heads into its final two district games next week.

"It's definitely a challenge. It's going to be tough," he said. "All we can do is look forward, and, hopefully, we can get one. We have Farmington and then Aztec, and they're beasts. We're just going to work on our offense, because we've had a difficult time on the attack and finishing when we need to."

Joshua Perry covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 or jperry@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.