Although the Moriarty girls’ soccer season came to an end in the Class 4A state quarterfinals at the hands of Albuquerque Academy, the positives of what the Pintos accomplished far outweighed any possible disappointment of the 6-0 loss last week.
“I think that they’ve having had the experience for one thing, it’s been since 2017 since we went to the quarterfinals,” coach Val Luker said. “So I think just the experience alone, it was good for them. The whole season, we had a good season, from start to finish. Yeah. So I think it’s a positive. It’s a positive at the end of this season and it’ll be a positive for the beginning of next.”
Put in the context of the Chargers being an annual championship contender with a program that also includes a full junior varsity team and a total of about 40 players, most of whom play year-round, and the Pintos (15-5-1) put up a decent tussle.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have a JV program,” the coach noted. “And we don’t have girls to play club. We have no girls to play club. So we have girls that have come out that have never played soccer before. So I consider this to be a highlight.”
That’s the way the team is approaching it, as well.
“I think we’re all a little disappointed that we lost,” said defender Lilia Hernandez. “But I think I’m really proud of everyone. You know, this is the farthest we’ve gotten in such a long time and I think we should all be proud of ourselves because we all progressed. But I think it’s a little sad that we lost, but I’m happy where we got.”
Moriarty finished with the most wins since at least the 2010 season (as far back as New Mexico Activities Association records go) and all of the players on the roster are underclassmen. And that bodes well for the team down the road.
“Mainly just our playing and our connection as a team,” said goal-scoring ace Brooklynn Olivas, who was forced on the backline against Academy to try and curb its relentless attack. “We spend a lot of time together. So that’ll definitely help us in the long run as far as next season.”
Against Academy, Luker said, the Pintos needed to play mistake-free, as well as come away with some breaks when able to generate scoring opportunities. Those breaks, however, did not materialize.
“They were fast at what they were doing,” she said of the Chargers. “I mean, they were quick, and they were aggressive. And I can’t say my girls didn’t play well, because I think they did play well. It’s just, we weren’t up to what they were doing. So, I don’t know what else to say. Because they (the Pintos) did play well. And I’ve seen them before when they didn’t. And this wasn’t one of the times. They were creating opportunities to score, but it just wasn’t happening (scoring) in this game. So, I mean, we know what we need to work on.”
Going on the road for a state playoff game is always tough.
Having the team get hit with illness makes it so much tougher.
Such was the case for the sixth-seeded Timberwolves last week when they traveled to No. 3 Ruidoso for the opening round of the Class 3A girls’ state soccer tournament.
“We unfortunately got hit with a little bit of an illness bug,” said coach Jason Burnette.
Not only was East Mountain missing a starter and a key reserve, but Burnette was forced to miss the trip, as well, and was replaced at the helm by assistant J.J. Jareno.
“He took over and did a wonderful job,” Burnett said. “I was pretty heartbroken that I couldn’t be there.”
Nevertheless, the Warriors had too much firepower, beating East Mountain 4-1, with Berkeley Flammang collecting the team’s goal to finish with a team-best 22 on the season.
Despite the opening-round loss, Burnette said the season was a success.
“We finished the regular season with a winning record and we made state,” he said. “Those were both our team goals to start the year. While we were disappointed to not go farther in state, it was an honor to be in the playoffs.”
What’s more, the Timberwolves evolved in a positive manner as the season progressed.
“Across the board, the girls got better and the team got better,” Burnette said. “We saw a lot of improvement really from everyone. It was really a fun and rewarding season.”
Although the loss is still fresh, there is already next season to ponder.
“We have five senior starters,” he said. “We have a special group of seniors. Losing them will hurt.”
But it also means an opportunity for younger players to step up, Burnette added.
“With our other returning starters and other returning players – we have a good group of underclassmen who are ready to step into those open spots. We’re looking forward to who we get as incoming freshmen, as well.”
That, of course, is a crapshoot since East Mountain is a charter school and relies on who is accepted via a lottery.
“I think we’re in good shape, but it’s always a little bit of a challenge when you’re a charter school,” he said. “We don’t have the feeder middle schools that are automatically sending up players. It’s a little more effort for the charter schools in that regard.”
Still, coming off a successful season, Burnette is optimistic for the future.
“This was great for their confidence,” he said. “One of the things we talked to them about is that going to state is not a right, it is an honor, and that we got there is a huge morale and confidence boost for all of these girls.”