KC, Bloomfield look for more upsets

Karl Schneider
Kirtland Central's Nikki Begay takes a shot on goal against Bloomfield's Hailey Wethington on Oct. 10 at Bobcat Stadium in Bloomfield.

FARMINGTON – After knocking off seventh-seeded East Mountain last week, the 10th-seeded Kirtland Central girls soccer team will face a familiar, and unfriendly, opponent in No. 2 Socorro during the quarterfinals of the A/4A girls state tournament Friday evening.

The Lady Warriors (19-0-1) and KC (9-12) met on Sept. 12 in Kirtland, and the Lady Broncos gave the unbeaten visitors one of their toughest matches of the season before falling 3-2 in overtime.

KC was one of three teams Socorro failed to beat by multiple goals this season — the other two being 5A Belen and Valencia.

“In that game, I was missing at least two of regular starters due to injury. I saw that we could hang toe to toe athletically with them, and I hope having those starters back for this one will make a difference,” KC head coach Chad Kimball said. “The girls are definitely excited. Once they saw the bracket and that we would face Socorro, everyone was really pumped, and we think we have a great chance to make the semifinals.”

The Lady Warriors lead the state in goals scored with 134 this season, 20 more than anyone else and 100 more than KC, while giving up just 12 goals. But countering the dominance of Socorro is its schedule, which ranks as the sixth easiest in the state.

On the season, KC has allowed twice as many goals as goals scored — giving up 68 compared to 34 goals scored — but has faced the third-toughest schedule in the state.

“I think that’s going to help us loads, especially under the pressure of the state tournament,” Kimball said of KC’s strength of schedule. “I think we’re as tough of a team that they’ve faced all year, and for them not facing much competition all season, I expect to put them on their heels and keep them there.”

Bloomfield vs. St. Michael’s

When Bloomfield stunned sixth-seeded Taos last week in the first round of the girls A/4A state tournament, the Lady Bobcats did something they hadn’t done since 2009 — advance to the quarterfinals.

In last week’s win, sophomore Vanessa Harris recorded just her second goal of the season, narrowly sneaking the game-winning goal under the crossbar to give No. 11 Bloomfield a 1-0 win in double overtime.

Whether Bloomfield was under seeded or simply caught Taos off guard, the upset win grabbed the attention of the rest of the tournament field, and it’s unlikely No. 3 St. Michael’s will be looking past the Lady Bobcats (7-13) when the two meet Thursday evening in Albuquerque.

St. Mike’s has one of the most potent attacks in the state, scoring 114 goals on the season. Leading the way for the Lady Horsemen (16-2-1) are juniors Nique Enloe and Monse Camarena. Enloe leads the state with 50 goals scored, while Camarena leads the state in assists with 25.

“I’m not sure how to set it (the defense) up yet, and I probably won’t know what we’ll do until we’re out there, but we need to take the ball away from them,” Bloomfield head coach Shannon Nygren said.

Facing a dominant goal scorer won’t be anything new to the Lady Bobcats, who shut down Taos’ Cora Cannedy, who entered last week’s match with 33 goals.

“I think it gave them a lot of confidence coming into this game,” Nygren said of the win over Taos. “Now, we’ve got a chance to play everyone together and with everyone healthy. They’re all excited and ready to play.”

Nygren said passing and communication will be the two biggest keys to earning a victory, but he also stressed the importance of converting on goal-scoring opportunities.

“All we want to do is focus on shooting into the net,” Nygren said of the offensive game plan. “We get a lot of shots and will take a lot of shots, but we need to get goals.”

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