Jags squeak by Warriors in overtime

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If anyone thought Tuesday’s match versus Valencia was intended to be more a gauge of progress than it was a chance to post a victory, the Socorro boys soccer team was not among them.

The Warriors (2-4) scratched and clawed their way against a team that missed the 2011 4A tourney by a one-goal aggregate, and they nearly pulled off what many would have viewed as an upset over the Jaguars.

After all was said and done, Valencia (1-1) squeaked by the boys in blue 2-1 in overtime, but the loss was nonetheless a statement of sorts that read this squad won’t roll over for anyone.

“We have a good enough team this year that we never go in with the mentality we’re going to lose the game,” Socorro forward/goalkeeper Will Schaffer said.

“We were going into that just like every other game, saying, ‘we could win.’ And I think we really showed, even with a young team, we can beat a 4A team that was (almost) state bound last year, and I would bet is going to be state bound this year.”

One of the recurring Warrior themes this season is being able to physically outlast their opponents, and head coach Dennis Walsh’s emphasis on conditioning is undoubtedly taking shape.

After the Jags got an early goal from Manuel Chavez just six minutes in, Socorro hunkered down, and although it didn’t score before halftime, the difference in conditioning was apparent. The Warriors were calm, collected and had plenty of breath left, in light of the fact they were playing their fifth game in five days.

Little did they know then just how much they would need it.

Socorro forward Michael Armijo zoomed past the Valencia defense six minutes into the second half, found himself on a breakaway and powered the ball past Valencia goalkeeper Fabian Lopez for the equalizer. It was a well-deserved boost for a team that had been working hard for 46 minutes against a fast, physical squad in the Jaguars.

Eight minutes later Chavez bounced one off the left post, but the teams would battle to a stalemate until around the six minute mark. Then things got interesting.

With 5:40 remaining, Armijo found himself on another breakaway opportunity and just steps away from attempting the go-ahead shot just outside the box. Instead he was tripped from behind by a Valencia defender and the play was called dead. The Warriors crowd thought a penalty kick was upcoming, but the referee thought differently.

Socorro was awarded a free kick from around 15 yards out, but John Carilli sailed the attempt over the crossbar.

The Jags turned up the offensive pressure in the final five minutes of regulation, but couldn’t punch one in.

In the third minute of the first 10-minute overtime period, Valencia’s Alan Ramirez beat Schaffer from the right side, and Socorro couldn’t match the goal.

Schaffer said the loss was upsetting, but the evolution of this team from their first game to this point isn’t difficult to find.

“I think we were in control of our emotions a little better. I think we’ve kind of gotten settled,” Schaffer said.

“Because we kind of have a young squad, we’re trying to stay fit out there, play 90 minutes by passing it around, and I felt like we were just passing it better.”

The Warriors have a rough three-game stretch upcoming as they’ll face Santa Fe Prep, Bosque Prep and Sandia Prep in a five day span, but after that they’ll have 17 days off.

“I think we’ll just keep it up,” Schaffer said. “We’ve got to play to our strengths, so we’re just going to build on that conditioning.”

The Warriors will play host to the Griffins at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon.