By Staff Reporter Photo by Carlos Montoya
What began with “Hell Week” (See the video on YouTube!) ended in heaven for the La Cueva High School girls soccer team, which swept through the Class 6A state tournament without allowing a goal, capping it off with a 2-0 victory over No.1 Rio Rancho in the championship game on Nov. 8.
Appearing in the championship game for the 11th time in the last 15 seasons – with previous titles won in 2002, ’04, ’06 and 2011-12 – the Bears (19-2) put it away early when Jordyn Lacy drove home a cross from Kristin Connors.
Later in the first half, after Rams standout and heart of her team Mariah Baker hit the turf hard after being fouled, not to return, Payton Balduini scored on a pass from Alyssa Yockey.
Meanwhile, No. 3 La Cueva goalkeeper Caitlin Christiansen turned away the few shots the Rams (19-4) managed against a stout defense.
“We knew what we needed to do. We needed to keep the ball on the ground, have a passing game,” explained LCHS coach Amber Ashcraft. “When we had our opportunities, we knew we had to put the ball in the back of the net – and that’s exactly what these girls did.”
It was the third time the teams had met this season: The Rams had early bragging rights after beating the Bears 2-1 in the APS Metro Championships title game, and the Bears avenged that six days later with a 1-0 win at Rio Rancho Stadium.
“It’s a pretty special team,” Ashcraft said of her Bears. “I’ve got a lot of seniors on this team and when I set the lineup this morning, I even got choked up because I couldn’t believe I was seeing these names for the last time.”
To get to the championship game, the third-seeded, District 2-6A runner-up Bears beat their district foe, Sandia, 4-0, in the quarterfinals and beat Volcano Vista, which they faced in the state championship games three straight seasons (2010-12), 1-0 in the semifinals.
The District 1-6A champion Rams, whose only previous state title game appearance resulted in a win in 2007, shut out Las Cruces 2-0 in the quarterfinals and, after 100 minutes of a scoreless semifinal with Cibola, emerged the winner in the shootout.
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