Los Lunas, seen here in action against Albuquerque Academy in the state semifinals last year, will play at the 5A level for the 2020-2022 cycle.
News-Bulletin file photo

By Cameron Goeldner

News-Bulletin Sports Writer

This is the first in a series examining the new district opponents Los Lunas High School teams will face following their move to Class 5A.

The Los Lunas High School boys soccer team is riding high off the back of last year’s state championship game, where the Tigers beat Los Alamos 2-1 to claim their first title since 1983.

It also turned out to be the last game the Tigers would play in class 4A, as the growing enrollment at the school has seen them pushed to 5A in all sports, joining the football team in that classification.

The five teams that join Los Lunas in making up district five are Albuquerque High, Capital, Rio Grande, Manzano and Santa Fe.

Albuquerque High

This means playing in the same district as the defending 5A champs, Albuquerque High.

The Bulldogs not only won the state title game, they did it without losing a single game.

AHS finished ranked as the 25th best team in the country and the No. 1 team in the state of New Mexico, according to MaxPreps.

The Bulldogs are led by head coach Lucien Starzynski, who has led the program for a decade.

AHS is a frequent face in the later rounds of the playoffs and hasn’t lost more than three games in a season since 2011. Now, the Tigers will see them twice a year.

The Bulldogs do lose eight seniors for last year’s team, but Cristian Nava, the player responsible for both of the team’s goals in the state championship game, and starting goalie Nathan Slota both return.

Capital

The Jaguars went 10-10 last season under head coach Luis De La Cruz, and 2-8 in district play, finishing last in the district.

CHS will lose ten seniors from last year’s team, which failed to make the playoffs. Capital’s 8-2 record outside of district play was achieved against a number of teams in lower classifications, including Monte Del Sol, who plays at the A/3A level. One of their two losses came to St. Pius X, who made it to the semifinals of the 4A state tournament and beat the Tigers twice.

Manzano

The Monarchs struggled last season, finishing with a 5-13 record and going 3-7 in district play.

2019 was the first season the team was under the direction of head coach Miguel Balderas, and the 5-13 record was a three-game improvement over their record the previous year.

Working in the program’s favor, however, is the age of their roster.

The team only loses three seniors from last year’s team, setting up a very experienced squad with 11 seniors this fall, including the return of two captains from last year’s team.

Rio Grande

The Ravens finished as runner ups in District 5 last year, going 9-7-2 and 5-4-1 in district play. However, a second-place finish in the district wasn’t good enough to push RGHS into the playoff picture.

Rio Grande loses nine seniors from last year’s squad to graduation and will have a young team this year with only nine upperclassmen total. According to the schedule the Ravens have posted on MaxPreps, they will take on Los Lunas for the first time on Saturday, Oct. 3 at RGHS before making the return trip to LLHS on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Santa Fe

The Demons round out the teams in District 5/5A and are coming off of a season in which they finished 8-8-4 and 4-5-1 in district play. Los Lunas is familiar with the Demons, as the two faced off last year in a match that ended in a 1-1 tie at SFHS.

SFHS only loses five seniors from last year’s team, which only had nine upperclassmen total. With an eight player sophomore class now a year older, there should be plenty of experience on the Demons roster despite the small senior class.

Lead by head coach Chris Eadie, the Demons did not qualify for the playoffs last season.

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Cameron Goeldner grew up in Boulder, Colo., and attended the University of New Mexico. He covers everything sports for all Valencia County schools.