The high school girls soccer season is now underway.
Los Lunas and Valencia anticipate reaching the state playoffs, while Belen looks to continue the improvement the Eagles saw last season.
The Tigers started the season impressively, winning the Aztec Shootout last weekend. LLHS defeated Grants 10-0, Hobbs 1-0, and Farmington 4-3 in the championship game.
Senior striker Charisma DeHerrera scored the lone goal against Hobbs and was one of four Tigers to find the net against Farmington. Nevaeha Aragon, Adelina Villanueva and Mia Carabajal-Hartog also scored in the title match.
The Tigers had a strong enough record at 15-5 to make the playoffs in 2022, but finishing third in District 5-5A, likely sealed their fate.
This season, LLHS fields an experienced team.
“I’ve got a lot of returning core players that had great seasons last year,” coach Jorge Tarango said.
Senior Mia Carabajal-Hartog, who had three goals in the Aztec tournament, is the Tigers top returning scorer with 28 goals.
“We have fast wings,” Carabajal-Hartog said. “We have a very strong defense. We know how to get up the field.”
The Tigers will look to replace standout defender Odalys Montez, who graduated.
“That was a big hit on us,” Tarango admits.
However, goalkeeper Haylee Driscoll returns, as do defenders Adelina Villanueva and Isabella Ortiz.
“Talent-wise, I think we’re amazing across the field. Everywhere,” said junior midfielder McKaylee Burt.
Judging by the tournament results in Aztec, LLHS should be able to score.
“We have really quick and agile players who can assist and score goals as well,” Tarango said.
The Tigers (3-0) home opener is Sept. 7 against Valencia.
“We’re starting over again, from scratch,” a blunt coach Ernest Gonzales said about the 4A Eagles.
“We lost five starters from last year’s team due to life,” Gonzales lamented, referring to various challenges and opportunities several players have dealt with.
But Gonzales remains enthusiastic.
“Very much so. We’ve got some speed,” he said. “We’ve got some soccer I-Q. We’ve got some tenacity. Collectively, as a group, we’re solid.”
Keep in mind, the Eagles only had one victory two seasons ago and raised that total to five last year, finishing 5-14 and 1-7 in district 5-4A.
“We stay positive and don’t give up very easily,” is how senior Alicia Lopez puts it. “Our teamwork is getting better every day and, if we keep working on that, we’ll definitely succeed this year.”
While BHS will rely on just a handful of upperclassmen, senior Jozlyn Diaz likes how the younger players, including eighth-grader Addison Carter, are coming along.
“They’re very enthusiastic; they want to like, ‘go’” Diaz said, while acknowledging, “They still have a lot to learn, just the basics.”
As coach Gonzales puts it, “They’ll have to learn trial by fire.”
Tuesday, the Eagles, who will not field a junior varsity team, hosted Hatch Valley in the season opener. Eighth grader Addison Carter calmly scored on a penalty kick in overtime to give the Eagles a 3-2 victory. Belen (1-0) plays at Moriarty Thursday.
The 4A Jaguars, the only county team to reach the state playoffs last season, are dealing with a tough schedule right out of the gate. That included a 4-1 loss at Alamogordo to open the season.
“I’m pretty pleased with the girls,” said coach Kimberly Chavez. “We came out really strong in the second half,” after some positioning changes. “The girls did what they needed to do to adjust to the level of the team.”
Francesca Otero scored the VHS goal against Alamogordo.
“We do lack a little bit of finishing. We’re working on that,” Chavez said about her offense.
“We have a lot of potential,” says senior defender Jaida Griego, pointing to the backline in particular. “Our defense does stand out a lot. We’re determined. We work our hardest back there.”
It’s that defense that will be counted on as the season unfolds.
“Those are pretty much all my returning players,” Chavez said. “The rest of my players are in different positions so they are still getting used to it. I think it might take us a game or two to get driving.”
Griego is a believer in this team.
“We have a tough schedule but I know we have a lot of potential too. I believe. I have a strong belief that we’ll do better.”
Valencia (0-2) played Tuesday at Roswell Goddard, losing 6-0. The home opener is Sept. 9 against Gallup.
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.