East Mountain High School’s Lady Timberwolves got past the visiting Portales Lady Rams last Saturday 2-0 to secure a district title and pave their path to the postseason for the third consecutive year.
And they did it with two area women—Andrea Vincent and Kim Linder—taking the helm midseason.
The Lady T’Wolves won 10 of the 11 regular-season games under the duo’s tutelage.
On Sunday the New Mexico Activities Association gave East Mountain the No. 7 seed—one spot higher than last year’s No. 8—so the Lady T’Wolves will be hosting the first round of the Class 1A-4A state tournament for the second year in a row.
Though their final performance against Portales was less than stellar, the Lady T’Wolves are the only area soccer team going to the state tournament. “I don’t think this was their best game,” said Vincent. “Maybe they’re saving it all up for next weekend.”
“Our energy wasn’t there,” added East Mountain senior Yvette Vallejos. “But it was a game we needed to win to help us get a higher seed.”
Saturday’s contest began with a nail-biting moment as Portales sent the opening kickoff inside East Mountain’s 18-yard box and the Lady T’Wolves got tagged with a foul, resulting in a penalty kick for the Lady Rams just 20 seconds into the game.
Portales’ PK sailed wide left but Linder acknowledged it was “a really scary way to start.”
East Mountain pressured the Lady Rams but struggled to find the back of the net for much of the first half and all of the second. “I feel like it was kind of an off day for us,” East Mountain senior Cassidy Pino said.
Pino took several early shots that swerved off frame and Sam Burch took a straight-on shot from 15 yards out that was saved by Portales’ goalkeeper.
After fouls in the 13th and 23rd minutes Pino had two direct free kicks blocked by Portales.
Following another Portales foul in the 24th minute Pino launched a corner kick from the left side into a crowd 5 yards in front of the Lady Rams’ goal.
East Mountain’s Mia Santistevan and a Portales defender both went for the ball and collided. The ball deflected off the Lady Rams defender and bounced into the left side of the net.
Though Santistevan was credited with the goal, the field official confirmed it was actually an “own goal” by Portales: when a player causes the ball to go into her own team’s net scoring a goal for the opposition. “I never touched it,” Santistevan admitted.
In the 31st minute another Pino direct free kick was blocked by a Portales defender but ricocheted back to Adriana Duran 20 yards out.
Duran nailed what she called a “toe ball” into the net for East Mountain’s second goal. “I have a habit of using my toe to kick the ball instead of the inside of my foot,” said Duran.
“I don’t care what part of the foot you use—if it goes into the net it counts the same,” Linder said.
The win over Portales came two days after East Mountain’s 2-0 victory over the visiting Rehoboth Christian Lady Lynx.
Vallejos and Ashley CdeBaca scored the Lady T’Wolves’ two goals.
“This was a game we’ve been waiting for,” Vallejos said, alluding to the connection with Rehoboth’s head coach, former East Mountain skipper Eric Taylor.
Taylor left East Mountain last spring to take the principal position at Gallup Christian, but he coaches the Rehoboth squad.
“It’s just like I left it,” Taylor said of the East Mountain team he helped build, adding, “The kids here have a lot of heart, they play super hard.”
That heart was evident this summer when the Lady T’Wolves practiced weekday mornings on their own—without a coach—until the school hired Brian Pecorella in August. Vincent served as his assistant.
When Pecorella resigned Sept. 14, Vincent took the reins as head coach and Linder, who has two daughters on the team, became the assistant coach. Linder has more than a decade of coaching experience.
With Vincent’s strong points being running, fitness, strength and conditioning, and Linder handling the on-field tactical side of things, the two have successfully steered the Lady T’Wolves into the postseason.
“We make a good team,” Vincent said of Linder.
“We’re the dynamic duo,” Linder added.
The two will be at the wheel of their first high school playoff game Saturday at 10 a.m. when East Mountain hosts 10th-seeded Kirtland Central.
The winner will advance to the state quarterfinals next week against No. 2 Socorro.