Despite a losing record, the Manzano High School girls soccer team never loses sight of head coach Todd Alam’s frequent encouragement to “be awesome.”
Wearing pink jerseys in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month during their Oct. 6 matchup against the visiting Albuquerque Lady Bulldogs, the Lady Monarchs were hustling and battling until the final whistle before falling 5-1.
It was the Monarchs’ fourth-straight loss since they began district play.
“We’ve had an unlucky streak, but Albuquerque’s No. 1 in district right now so we knew this would be a hard game,” Alam said, adding, “But I saw passion to the end, and that’s what we want to see from them.”
Manzano (5-8, 1-4) took 10 shots but only found the back of the net once on Jennesis Martinez’ second half breakaway.
The Lady Bulldogs (9-2, 4-0), Manzano’s new District 5-5A foe, took more than 25 shots but not all were on frame. They opened the scoring with a 20-yard goal in the 15th minute.
Albuquerque added another long-range shot, from about 30 yards out, to take a 2-0 advantage at halftime.
“[The Lady Bulldogs] weren’t as physical as some of the other teams we’ve played,” said midfielder Abby Clarke, who lives in the East Mountains.
In the second half, after the Bulldogs increased their lead to 4-0, the Monarchs were awarded a pair of free kicks on two separate Albuquerque fouls.
The first free kick resulted in a shot that skimmed just above the crossbar.
The second free kick—by Brianna Johnson, who lives near Chilili—bounced around a scramble inside the 18-yard box and got knocked back to her.
She quickly charged the ball and launched a low line drive from about 25 yards out, but Albuquerque’s goalkeeper snared it near the far post.
“I was just trying to get it on target and hopefully get it in or maybe someone would follow,” Johnson said.
Thirty seconds later, Martinez charged toward the box on a fast break opportunity but her shot drifted wide left.
Finally, in the 70th minute, Martinez took control of a through ball just inside Albuquerque’s territory and drove past the only defender near her.
Albuquerque’s goalkeeper came charging out, and Martinez blasted a low, bounding shot past her and into the unguarded net.
A few minutes later, Albuquerque countered with its final goal.
In the 79th minute, Manzano again got within range and Martinez scooted along the rim of the box and took the Monarchs’ final shot of the match but it was saved by Albuquerque’s goalkeeper.
“We can have an explosive offense at times, and I thought our defense was pretty tight today—there was really not that much from inside the 18,” Alam said, noting that most of Albuquerque’s goals were long-distance shots from outside the 18-yard box.
“This team’s still growing,” Alam said. “They’re learning the passion they need to win games—they’re getting there.”
Manzano picked up its first district victory Oct. 10 in Santa Fe with a 7-1 win over the Capital High Jaguars (5-8). The Monarchs host Sandia High Oct. 13.
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.