The final whistle sounded, and the celebration started.
In the afterglow of Moriarty’s 3-2 victory Oct. 31 over 10th-seeded Artesia in the opening round of the Class 4A girls soccer state playoffs, the Pintos skipped and bounced around grinning like little kids in a ball pit.
A flurry of bear hugs and high fives was followed by a victory jog across Moriarty’s new soccer field to the south sideline where a crowd of cheering fans greeted the players.
“I’m so excited,” junior defender Lillian Chavez said, catching her breath. “Very, very, very excited.”
“We’re going to the state quarterfinals, it’s gonna be awesome,” Moriarty’s eighth-grade goalkeeper Kylie McDonough added with exuberance.
With the win, No. 7 Moriarty (15-4-1) advances to the 4A state quarterfinals today to face No. 2 Albuquerque Academy (15-4-1), which is coming off a bye. The match will be held at the Chargers’ field at 3:30 p.m.
Andrea Rector scored two goals in the first half and Brooklynn Olivas added the game-winner in the 55th minute to lift Moriarty over the Bulldogs. It is the Pintos’ first postseason victory in six years.
“It is a big deal,” said head coach Val Luker, who was at the helm the last time Moriarty won a playoff game in 2017. “It felt good back then, it feels good now.”
Moriarty came out strong, attacking Artesia’s goal with a barrage of long-range shots.
Rector got the Lady Pintos on the board in the fifth minute when she took a cross pass from Lindsey Rebarchik and lofted an arcing shot from just beyond the penalty spot. Rector’s ball bounced in front of, and then over the Artesia goalkeeper and skimmed under the cross bar.
“Yeah, that was kinda lucky,” Rector admitted.
Rector’s second goal came in the 35th off an Olivas corner kick. Rector positioned herself in the 6-yard area in front of the goal, and when the corner floated her way, she jumped up and headed the ball inside the far post.
“That was really nice, I’ve been working on headers, like, the whole season,” Rector said. “It actually hurt a little, it was like a fever dream.”
Mayra Garcia scored both goals for Artesia. The first one came in the 44th. Garcia knotted the score at 2-2 in the 47th.
“The first one, it was just so cluttered I’m not sure what happened,” McDonough said. “The second one hit me in the face, and it just snuck past me. It was in slow motion.”
McDonough clamped down and only let one other shot get by her, but it was nullified because Artesia was called for being offside.
Olivas got the game-winner after securing a through-ball on the left flank. Then she cut inside and juked her way past a pair of defenders into the 18-yard area. She rifled a line drive from about 15 yards out that sliced through the legs the ‘keeper.
“Yeah, that was crazy. I honestly didn’t expect that,” Olivas said.
Moriarty ratcheted up its defense the rest of the way, marking up and pressuring Artesia until the final whistle.
“They’re really fast, and they were pushing it up the sideline, so we just had to cut off their angles,” Chavez said. “It really is a mental game, just making sure that you push up and hold the line.”
Luker attributed the win to everyone on the team pulling together.
“The girls worked hard. When one person tried to defend the ball, there was always somebody staggered behind to support that, so yeah, it was a whole team effort,” Luker said. “I’m thrilled with the outcome.”
The players were thrilled, too.
“I’m really excited to move on to the quarterfinals,” Chavez said. “This is the first time we’ve made it in a really long time.”
“It’s sweet, it feels really great,” Olivas said. “We’ve worked so hard, and we really pulled through today.”
The sixth-seeded Timberwolves have a pretty good idea of what they face in their Nov. 4 Class 1A-3A girls state soccer tournament opener.
East Mountain saw Ruidoso back in August, losing 3-0 at home.
But that gave Jason Burnette a pretty good idea of what’s on tap.
“They’ve got a very aggressive style of play,” he said. “Ruidoso is very much an attacking team. A lot of through balls. They have some speed.”
The Warriors also possess a rather unique weapon that is hard to defend in a player who can do a flip throw on an in-bounds play. Done correctly, it generates a lot of momentum as the player flings the ball high and far.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Burnette said. “All three of their goals came on set pieces, the first two off of throw ins. It’s definitely something you have to account for. If they get in your third, they’re getting a throw into box.”
The team was unprepared for that the first time around, but has spent the past week going over defending it.
“We’re working on that situation as best we can,” he said. “We’re having the girls training like we would with a corner kick. We have one of the coaches punt the ball, or lob the ball because it drops at such an interesting angle.We didn’t see it coming, but we know now and we’ll be much better prepared to anticipate and respond to that.”
The Warriors try to play to that strength, looking to get the ball upfield quickly through the middle with direct, through balls, trying to put the pressure on the defense, Burnette said.
Ruidoso has been prolific offensively, with Alexx Chavez leading the way with 28 goals and 17 assists. Bayler Pritchett and Evelyn Medrano each added 17 goals and Pritchett chipped in 20 assists.
The Timberwolves to look to counter that attack behind centerback Jaycelyn Head.
“She really sets the tone for us back therein many ways,” Burnette said.
Defensive midfielders Savannah Gomez and Olivia Kern also contribute to the back wall.
“The two of them, Savannah has the highest soccer IQ, and Olivia is just an incredible athlete and the two of them are a pretty good combination and reset our counter attack.’
That counter attack usually goes toward Berkeley Flammang, who has 20 goals on the season.
“One thing we’ve been really happy with this team is as a group it possesses really well,” Burnette said. “We control the ball. We do a good job of controlling the tempo and playing to the open teammate.”
The Independent Editor Glen Rosales contributed to this report