Panthers have upped their game in 1-6A play this season

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FARMINGTON — The Piedra Vista girls soccer team is in a far different place facing its District 1-6A play adversaries this season than it was a year ago.

The Panthers went from losing lopsided matches to Cibola, Cleveland and Volcano Vista in 2016 to engaging in much tighter battles with those teams in 2017.

“It’s really exciting. Last year, they were beating us 6-0, 7-0. We’re a whole different team than what we were last year,” junior defender Jensen Carpenter said.

The first two district bouts at Cibola and at Cleveland were 1-0 losses, and the loss at Cibola was decided by a game-winner with 30 seconds left in regulation.

PV lost 5-1 to Volcano Vista on Saturday, but played a stronger second half on both ends of the pitch — allowing just one goal in that second half.

“The girls have a higher expectation of what’s going on. They understand what (district’s) going to be about, how they’re going to be pressured, how they’re going to be played,” coach Adam Huff said. “You understand how fast it is, you understand how fast you need to go to be able to keep up.”

PV is 0-3 to start district play this season, but that district record is deceiving.

The Lady Panthers (7-7-1) are better acclimated to the faster speed of play that comes with facing teams like Cibola, Cleveland and Volcano Vista. Those three teams are among the top five teams in New Mexico 6A girls soccer.

“These are the top teams for a reason, and we’re with them, we’re right there,” Huff said. “The effort is off the roof, and that’s why we’re staying in games.”

PV is creating space for extra breakaway scoring chances. Passes are quicker and are getting out more in tighter spaces.

“It’s all about high pressure. When we can get to the ball and get to the defense way fast, then it shuts (opponents) down. That is what’s been working for us,” junior forward Whitney Chacon said. “We’re way faster moving together. Our pace of play is way faster than it was (last year).”

PV’s back line is also doing a better job of locking onto opposing players and limiting how much space they have to work with. And whenever foes start going into attack formation, PV is making sure those spots are covered.

PV resumes district play at 6 p.m. Thursday at Rio Rancho.

As the season progresses, Huff wants his team to replicate the effort seen in the matches at Cibola and Cleveland, and the second half against Volcano Vista.

“That’s my team. The grit and the grind, the pride in what they’re doing,” Huff said.

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

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