AZTEC – Both Carlsbad and Kirtland Central saw plenty of good in facing each other to start the 2017 girls soccer campaign.
"I saw a lot of positives out there. (Carlsbad's) the kind of caliber we're going to face in state. We've got to get to a point where we can hang with those (teams)," KC coach Chad Kimball said.
The Cavegirls, who beat the Lady Broncos 8-0 Friday at the Aztec Tiger Shootout, aimed to significantly bolster their non-district résumé after they hammered Chaparral and Santa Teresa by a combined score of 22-0 last year. They also sought tougher competition against some northern New Mexico squads prior to District 3-6A play (which includes Hobbs and Las Cruces) and the state tournament.
"It's a long trip, but I think this will be definitely beneficial for us. (Kirtland Central's) a good squad, and they put us under pressure," Carlsbad coach Misty Long said.
Despite the final outcome, the Lady Broncos (0-1) faced a team that's consistently good in girls soccer. And after dealing with Carlsbad's speedy front line, it'll help Kirtland Central better manage faster teams like District 1-5A foes Farmington and Aztec.
"We're going to learn how to deal with that," Kimball said.
Kirtland Central did have its brighter moments, though. The Lady Broncos at times limited some of the Cavegirls' open space going on the attack. A few Carlsbad shot attempts went high or wide during the first 10 minutes of regulation, and that similar pressure repeated itself at times in the second half.
Kimball said his team will "most definitely" be battle-tested after facing someone like Carlsbad to open the year.
"When you're playing a team that handles that well, who's that athletic, it can take a mental toll on a team. And I think my girls are very resilient out there," Kimball said.
Carlsbad (1-0) lost nearly all of its scoring threats from 2016, but it still has its key group on defense intact. And some the younger players got significant action on the pitch — led by eighth grader Alexa Dugan, who scored three goals in the first 24 minutes of regulation.
"I think some of the kids needed a chance. They didn't get a whole lot of looks last year because of the players I lost, and I think these kids are reveling in the fact they get this chance to step up and take control," Long said.
Looking at the bigger picture, Long said competing in a place like Aztec will "probably" help Carlsbad when it comes to playoff seedings and overall body of work. Long also said her team needed that first big push, and that was a reason why she wanted to get that tournament on Carlsbad's schedule.
Other teams in the tournament include Piedra Vista, Bloomfield, Bosque and host school Aztec.
"It's a great setting. It's a great facility up here, great teams. Overall, I think it's going to pay dividends for us just preparing us for what's ahead of us in the next couple months," Long said.
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.