FARMINGTON — For the second-straight season, Aztec High School's Lady Tigers girls' soccer team will be playing for a state championship.
The No. 3 Lady Tigers knocked off No. 2 Farmington High 3-1 in the 4A state semifinals on Friday at the APS Soccer Complex in Albuquerque.
Aztec beat FHS in two of the three prior meetings this season, but head coach Stephen Parks said those previous matchups didn't really factor into Friday's game.
"The most important thing is we'll be playing the state title," Parks said. "Farmington came out and battled, but we stayed composed."
The Lady Scorpions (14-7) opened the scoring in the first 10 minutes of the contest when Peyton Sandoval scored on a free kick.
Aztec (20-2) responded quickly when Hailey Morris scored off an assist from Jessica Kresl to tie the score 1-1.
The Lady Tigers scored again with less than 10 minutes left in the first half on a goal by Morgan Smith off of another assist from Kresl.
Neither team could muster too much offense in the second half until the 76th minute when Rikki Newland scored on a free kick for Aztec's third goal to seal the match and secure the Lady Tigers' place in the title game.
"It's a good feeling," Newland said. "I always like to give the team a chance to score on those, and it just so happened to go in."
The loss was disappointing for the Lady Scorps, but the team accomplished one of its main goals in winning the District 1-4A title and will use this experience to build toward another championship run next season.
"It was an amazing season from beginning to end," said FHS head coach Shannon Gill. "To see the improvement, hard work and never quit attitude, I look forward to next season."
Aztec will face No. 1 St. Pius X for the championship at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday after the Lady Sartans defeated No. 4 Albuquerque Academy 2-1 in double overtime.
The Lady Tigers lost their previous meeting with St. Pius 4-1 on Oct. 5, but Parks doesn't expect that performance to have any effect on the championship match.
"It's going to come down to heart and desire," Parks said. "There's nothing more we can do to practice for them. The girls know what to expect. They know how it all works. When they get here tomorrow, they'll have to go play."
Newland feels last year's loss in the title game will motivate the team, and the experience of playing for the championship before will help to alleviate any nerves.
"I think it's always good to have that experience," she said.