Lady Warriors fly high against the Cardinals

........................................................................................................................................................................................

If Socorro girls head soccer coach Mitch Carrejo had a master plan for ensuring his team would be cruising into district play at the height of its game, he may have just pulled it off flawlessly.

Jonathan Miller/El Defensor Chieftain: Dezirae Armijo tries to wrestle the ball away from Robertson’s Estrella Guiterrez on Saturday. Armijo scored four goals in a 5-3 Socorro victory.

The Lady Warriors beat 4A Belen last Wednesday on a last-second goal, on Saturday afternoon they managed to power past one of the state’s more potent offenses in Robertson, 5-4, and they did it down a player.

“We played 80 minutes today and shorthanded, so it was nice to see,” Carrejo said.

Socorro was down to 10 players for most of the match when senior defender Bryn Botko rolled her ankle, yet its young defense managed to keep the Cardinal’s high-powered offense in check and allowed only one goal in a tightly contested second half.

“Their position was a lot better,” Carrejo said of his defense. “They were a little more aggressive.”

For the second consecutive match, the Lady Warriors sprung out of the gates thanks to the foot of senior Dezirae Armijo, who scored just 45 seconds in with the help of a nifty Jeriana Contreras through ball. Two minutes later, Armijo skied a ball over the Robertson goalie off of a free kick from 20 yards out, and things were clicking early on once again for Socorro.

“She’s (Armijo) our designated shooter from out there,” Carrejo said. “On those long ones, we’re trying to shoot over the goalie and get the upper left corner, and it worked perfect today.”

The Cardinals answered right back six minutes in when sophomore forward Caitlin Diefendorf skipped passed the Socorro defense, into the box and rocketed the ball into the upper right corner of the goal. The shot glanced just off the hands of Lady Warriors senior goalkeeper Tayler Hammach, but the score seemed to wake her up a bit.

She said she had a feeling she’d need to play well on Saturday against a talented set of Robertson forwards.

“Mitch was telling us that these girls are pretty good. I knew I really had to pick it up,” she said. “One thing I told the girls at the beginning of the game is that this is our turning point, and I realized it has to be my turning point too.”

And that it was for Hammach, who made four straight athletic saves over the next 22 minutes and kept Robertson out of the net despite seeing some stellar scoring opportunities. She would record eight total saves on the day.

“She was outstanding today,” Carrejo said. “Outstanding.”

At the 28 minute mark Armijo gave Socorro a little breathing room when she pick-pocketed the Cardinals defense and took the ball all the way to net for an unassisted score to give her team a 3-1 lead. Dominique Molina added to the Lady Warriors advantage off another Contreras assist in injury time, and at halftime the Lady Warriors held a 4-2 lead.

Robertson managed to trim the Socorro lead to one when senior midfielder Elena Martinez danced past the Socorro defense and scored from five yards out with 23 minutes and 30 seconds left on the clock. That was the last time on Saturday, though, they’d find the back of the net.

Socorro’s defense rose to the task in the second half, and behind Hammach’s determined play and freshman defender Ayzia Guerro’s relentless hustle, the Cardinals were kept to fewer than six goals in a match for just the second time this season.

“We were getting beat a little bit,” Carrejo said. “They were pushing up, so we dropped her (Guerro) into a sweeper position just to give us a little more space, because they’re a little faster than us. She did an excellent, excellent job.”

Armijo added an insurance goal on another precisely placed free kick from 35 yards out with 3:30 remaining in the match, and Socorro held for its ninth win of the season.

It was a quality victory for Socorro (9-3) against an outstanding opponent in Robertson (9-2), and Carrejo has his squad putting it all together and playing its best soccer at an extremely convenient time. The defense is playing more aggressively and consistently staying in position, and Armijo and Molina are proving to be a forceful scoring combination.

The Lady Warriors began District 3-A/AAA play yesterday on the road against Silver, and on Thursday they’ll welcome Hatch Valley to Eddie Castaneda Field.

“We’re in a grove. Hopefully we can ride it out,” Carrejo said.