With home-field advantage and a bond like Super Glue, East Mountain’s girls soccer team had hopes of a Halloween victory in last Saturday’s first round of the Class 1A-4A state tournament.
But it was the visiting Kirtland Central Lady Broncos who handed the seventh-seeded Lady Timberwolves a season-ending 2-1 loss.
“I thought this was going to be our game,” said East Mountain head coach Andrea Vincent. “But I think it was just nerves—a lot of them said they were a little nervous.”
The No. 10 Broncos belied their 8-12 record by attacking early and taking five shots on goal in the game’s first 12 minutes. “They were well coached, they were disciplined,” East Mountain senior goalkeeper Chenoa Crites said of the Lady Broncos. “They came in and pounded us.” Crites had eight saves in the first half alone.
In the 33rd minute, Kirtland’s Nikki Begay tapped a cross pass to forward Christine Young who zipped a shot past the diving Crites to give the Broncos a 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later Begay drilled a shot from the corner of the 6-yard box to put the Broncos up 2-0.
“They wanted it more than we did,” Yvette Vallejos said. East Mountain took only three shots on frame the entire first half and couldn’t capitalize on three Cassidy Pino free direct kicks.
The T’Wolves finally got on the board in the 39th minute by way of a Kirtland Central “own goal.”
Vallejos sent a pass from the left corner to a crowd in front of the goal where the ball deflected off a Kirtland defender and into the net.
Neither team scored in the second half, but the T’Wolves came close: Rose King’s shot in the 43rd minute hit the cross bar, and Pino’s would-be equalizer from 20 yards out in the 78th minute drifted wide left by a foot.
Pino also had two more free kicks that barely missed the mark—one hit the right goal post and the other skimmed over the cross bar by inches. “That was definitely frustrating,” Pino said. “I was like, ‘Dang it! Just go in!’”
After the loss, knowing they’d played their final high school soccer game, Pino and Crites reflected on the most important payoff of their uplifting season.
“I’m gonna miss the girls like crazy,” Crites said as she walked off the field for the last time.
“My biggest takeaway was how close we got as a family,” said Pino. “We really grew as a family this year.”
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.