The Beautiful Game was especially cruel to the Volcano Vista High School girls soccer team Friday afternoon.
Cibola’s Mireya Torres snuck a shot past Volcano keeper Elena Moya five minutes into overtime to give the Cougars an exciting 3-2 win over the Hawks in the quarterfinals of the state soccer tournament. As Cibola players stormed the pitch to celebrate with Torres, dejected VVHS players fell to the grass in despair.
First-year head VVHS head coach Ashley Nieder gave an emotional speech to her tearful players after the setback.
“Obviously they’re a mess,” Nieder said. “They should keep their heads up and look forward to next year. Unfortunately, our two seniors won’t be a part of that team, but they have really helped to build a new culture and its program so very proud of.”
Nieder took over for longtime coach Samantha Lucero in May and led the Hawks to a 13-7 record, a second-place finish in District 1-5A and the No. 4 seed in the state tourney.
“I’m so proud of them,” Nieder said. “I feel like the start of the season to the end of the season was night and day. I had younger girls stepping into big girl roles, and they rose to the occasion. So I’ve never been more proud.”
Brooke Volza had two goals for No. 5 Cibola in regulation. Aleah Lucero tied the game at 1-1 for the Hawks with a goal off of a rebound in the first half. Eighth grader Kasey Sandoval forced overtime with an amazing goal from distance on a free kick late in the second half for the Hawks, who beat Cibola 2-1 on Oct. 21 and lost to the Cougars 3-2 on Oct. 5.
Nieder knows the joy of winning a state championship, as a Volcano Vista player in 2010 and as an assistant coach at VVHS in 2019. She also knows the pain of losing, having dropped the 2011 state title game to La Cueva when she was named Player of the Year.
“I’ve been in their position, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” Nieder said. “And it’s almost harder because I want to take all of their pain away from them, but it’s not possible.”
It was a much more joyous experience for the boys team Friday, which followed up the girls’ defeat, as they cruised to a 3-1 win over Organ Mountain. The top-seeded boys advance to play either Cleveland or Hobbs in the semifinals on Wednesday.