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Aztec improves to 4-1 with 4-0 win over Hope Christian


AZTEC – The Aztec girls soccer team is applying nonstop pressure on defense this season.

From one end of the field to the other, the Lady Tigers make a habit of quickly closing in on opposing shooters and limiting their space.

"We're making it really hard for them to keep the ball. When they try to go forward, we're pressing, and we're pushing in the direction we want to go. Then we can outnumber them in an area," coach Kelly Kelso said.

The Lady Tigers, who improved to 4-1 after today’s 4-0 win over Hope Christian, are recognizing when to shift to the side or move up slightly and are staying in front of opponents.

"We just want to try and shut them down as fast as we can so they don't get a scoring opportunity. I'd be overwhelmed if I was the other team, just getting pressured so quickly," senior midfielder Abby Tillman said.

The Lady Tigers also have been able to neutralize shooters going for breakaway scoring chances. Hope Christian appeared to have one of those opportunities in the second half of today's game, but at least two Aztec defenders quickly fell back toward the goalkeeper’s box, staying right in front of the ball and keeping it away from the net.

"We've got to keep the pressure up, but we also have to build off the pressure," freshman defender Aspen Newland said. "It's nonstop. It's knowing when to just keep going and to know when to move."

Senior goalkeeper Sierra Sanders is also off to a strong start in 2017, batting away incoming shots left and right. She's allowed just three goals and has posted three shutouts.

Facing speedier teams like Carlsbad to open 2017, Aztec tries to keep the pressure high at all times.

The Tigers even make substitutions every 15 to 20 minutes to keep players fresh, which helps keep the pressure high.

"There's no let up. If they don't get on them, then we lose control of the game," Kelso said.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.