Academy again top­ples Hill­top­pers

Los Alamos still un­able to beat Charg­ers; frus­tra­tion shows

Santa Fe New Mexican - - SPORTS - By Will Web­ber wweb­ber@sfnewmex­i­

SANTA ANA PUE­BLO — There’s a road­block be­tween Los Alamos and the blue tro­phy, and ev­ery year it seems to be get­ting big­ger and more dif­fi­cult to pass.

Its name is Al­bu­querque Academy.

For what seemed like the 843rd time in a row, “The Road­block” put a halt to an­other Los Alamos boys soc­cer sea­son by beat­ing the Hill­top­pers 3-0 in Fri­day’s Class 4A State Tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship match at the New Mex­ico Soc­cer Tour­na­ment Com­plex.

It’s the fourth straight year that Academy has ended Los Alamos’ sea­son with a loss. Academy did it three years ago in what was then the Class 5A cham­pi­onship, then again the last two years in the semi­fi­nals.

Fri­day was just the lat­est rot­ten turn in what is be­com­ing a frus­trat­ing trend that has no signs of let­ting up. It was enough to get un­der the skin of the top player on the field, Los Alamos se­nior Arthur Steinkamp.

The team’s top scorer, he’d poured in five goals in two tour­na­ment games en route to the fi­nals. On Fri­day, he was shad­owed by two play­ers of equal or greater size, of equal or greater speed and tech­nique.

“They’re big and phys­i­cal and, I mean, they’re a pri­vate school,” Steinkamp said. “They re­cruit kids. It’s no se­cret. I mean, that’s bull. They re­cruit kids, they get the big­gest kids and they just go out and work hard and just put the pres­sure on us.”

The teams matched in in­ten­sity in the first 15 min­utes, but it was sim­ply un­sus­tain­able for Los Alamos. The tour­na­ment’s No. 5 seed, the Top­pers were bog­ging down on de­fense in the 18th minute as the ball was worked into the box and stayed in there for two blocked shots in front of the net.

The third came off the foot of fresh­man Neven Za­p­atka, which found the back of the net at the 17:20 mark.

It started a con­stant stream of op­por­tu­ni­ties over the next 23 min­utes that pro­duced two shots that bounced off the post and three more that re­quired a div­ing save or last-sec­ond de­flec­tion.

The Charg­ers made it 2-0 at half­time when ju­nior Trevor Dean took a cross­ing pass in the box from Kenny Le­van­doski and drove home the sec­ond goal.

Oliver Ku­mar closed out the scor­ing in the 66th minute. The fresh­man had just come off the bench and wound up driv­ing home the nail in the Los Alamos … well, you get the point. It’s the same story, year af­ter year, match af­ter match.

“They’re just a good, solid team with fan­tas­tic play­ers who get it done,” Los Alamos head coach Ron Blue said. “They won what felt like most of the 50-50 balls, and were a step in front of us all day, but give credit to them. They’re a re­ally good team.”

Blue ad­mit­ted that this loss stung maybe just a lit­tle bit worse than some of the oth­ers.

This year’s Hill­top­pers, he said, had out­stand­ing chem­istry and the play­ers re­sponded well to se­nior lead­er­ship as well as stern coach­ing.

“The older you get the more you re­al­ize there are some things that mat­ter more than oth­ers, and things like that mean so much,” Blue said. “It was easy coach­ing this team and I’m proud of what they did just to get here.”

What the team did was fin­ish 16-7-1 and was un­de­feated in Dis­trict 2-4A. The Hill­top­pers had a num­ber of qual­ity play­ers, led by Steinkamp. It wasn’t that long ago that he com­mit­ted to play next sea­son at the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico, but now that the school has elim­i­nated men’s soc­cer, it has left him search­ing for an­swers.

“I have no idea where I’m go­ing,” Steinkamp said. “There’s some ideas in my head, but I’ll just go to some of th­ese ID camps and see what’s out there.”

As mud­dled as his fu­ture is, what lies ahead for Los Alamos in 4A next sea­son is crys­tal clear. Re­gard­less of who suits up for the Hill­top­pers, the pri­mary ob­sta­cle be­tween them­selves and an elu­sive state ti­tle is Al­bu­querque Academy.

Next sea­son can’t come soon enough.


Los Alamos’ Jared Carnes, right, and Al­bu­querque Academy’s Oliver Ku­mar bat­tle for con­trol Fri­day in the Class 4A State Tour­na­ment ti­tle game at Santa Ana Pue­blo. Academy won 3-0.

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