It was a weekend of ups and downs for the Belen High School girls soccer team as they tried to defend their Socorro Cup championship title. The Lady Eagles fell short, losing to host Socorro in a nail-biting shootout in the semifinals and settling for third place.

After playing to a 2-2 tie at the end of 80 minutes, the game went into two five-minute overtimes, plus a shootout that eventually decided the game.

The Lady Eagles struck first when Crystal Cordova netted a goal, assisted by Jocelyn Chavez, five minutes into the game.

But Socorro scored the equalizer and took a 2-1 lead at the half on goals by Teran Chavez, in the 30th minute, and Helga Bhasker two minutes later.

In the second half, it seemed the Lady Warriors would retain the lead through aggressive play. But a beautiful header by Belen junior Melissa Gurule tied the game in the 48th minute. Exceptional goaltending by Belen’s Stephanie Sanchez extended play to overtime.

Neither overtime period yielded a goal, forcing the game to be settled by shootout β€” where each coach selects five plays to shoot penalty kicks against the opposing goalkeeper. Each team made three goals in the first shootout, causing a second round of shots. Misdirected kicks and excellent stops by both keepers caused the shootout to go down to each team’s final two kickers.

A precisely-placed kick to the upper-right corner by Socorro forward Amanda Armijo ended the game and Belen’s hopes of bringing home the cup.

“My defense is rebuilding, and I think they (Socorro) took advantage of that,” said Nettie Salas, Lady Eagle head coach. “Tired legs played a good role in that too.”

Despite the heart-breaking loss in the semi-final, Belen delivered two poundings to Kirtland-Central and Piedra Vista, both Farmington area schools, in its other two games in the tournament.

Belen blanked Kirtland Central, 5-0, in the first game on Friday. Gurule added Belen’s last three goals. Brandi Dearing and Jocelyn Chavez scored the first two goals.

“I didn’t expect them to play as well this early,” Salas said. “The team play was just excellent.”

In the third-place game on Saturday afternoon, the Lady Eagles won easily, 4-1, over Piedra Vista.

Belen, picked to win their District 3-4A in a recent Albuquerque Journal coaches poll, played its first home game Tuesday against West Mesa (no score was available at News-Bulletin press time). The Lady Eagles play at Gallup on Thursday.

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Mark Hall