FHS, Aztec begin state tourney play

Karl Schneider
Farmington's Hannah Kelley turns the ball around during a game against Piedra Vista on Oct. 8 at the PV soccer fields in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – The top-ranked Farmington girls soccer team will begin its run for the 5A state title with a quarterfinal match against No. 9 Los Lunas Thursday morning in Albuquerque.

Farmington (18-2) received a bye into the quarterfinals, while Los Lunas (12-8-1) reached the quarters after edging No. 8 Centennial 1-0 last week.

The two teams have not faced each other this season, and head coach Shannon Gill said she has not tried to get any information on the Lady Tigers.

“I usually don’t do that stuff,” Gill said. “I just worry about what we’re going to do and go from there. We have to play our best each and every game, and just worry about us.”

The Lady Scorps have been dominant on both sides of the ball this season. Their 94 goals scored ranks only behind St. Pius X’s 99, and their nine goals allowed is the best in the state.

“We haven’t really discussed it,” Gill said of the defense’s success. “We’re just focused and ready, and ready to go. In our minds, we’re not done with the season. When everyone plays well, and we build from our defense to our offense, and attacking with numbers, good things happen for us.”

Pacing the Farmington attack is senior Hannah Kelley, who has found the back of the net 34 times to go with 14 assists this season.

Leading the way for the Lady Tigers is sophomore Kylie Spangler’s 17 goals and 11 assists.

If Farmington can avoid being upset, the Lady Scorps will face the winner of longtime rival Aztec and Los Alamos.

“We definitely can’t overlook anybody,” Gill said. “This isn’t like regular-season tournaments where you know you have another game tomorrow. We have to come out ready to go at the first whistle.”

Aztec vs. Los Alamos

Seeded No. 4, Aztec (13-6) is trying to return to the semifinals for the fourth consecutive season with the No. 5 Lady Hilltoppers (14-5-2) standing in its way Thursday morning.

On paper, the pairing is as close as can be expected for a 4-5 match. The goal differential for the season is plus 53 for Aztec and plus 51 for Los Alamos.

“We should match up well with them. It’s going to be a good game,” Aztec head coach Kelly Kelso said. “The girls have had a really, really good few days of practice and are really playing well. I’m extremely optimistic about tomorrow and the weekend. We packed for three days.”

Kelso said he went to Los Alamos on Saturday to watch the Lady Hilltoppers' first-round match against Belen. He said Los Alamos’ leading goal scorer, Sienna Ahlers, along with Abby Schmalz and Alissia Haagenstad, will present a tough challenge for Aztec’s defense.

With the No. 4 seed, Aztec received a bye into the quarterfinals, which Kelso believes will be a benefit for the team.

“Sometimes when you have the break, it’s a detriment, but this year, I think it was a positive. It gave us time to focus and train, and we got a couple of injuries healed up,” Kelso said.

Kelso said the key to moving past Los Alamos will be getting the ball outside and using the team’s speed to get behind the Lady Hilltoppers’ defense.

“We definitely need to get the ball wide and work the sides. If we can win that scenario, I think we can get behind their back line — that’s going to be the key,” Kelso said. “Their midfield is pretty strong, so we don’t want them to control possession. I think we have more speed, so getting it wide is definitely the key.”

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.