Lady Warriors lose in heartbreaker

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Lots of words come to mind when trying to describe the Lady Warriors’ quarterfinal loss to Robertson on Thursday morning. Heartbreaking, devastating, dramatic and lamentable might be a few, but the most accurate way to express the match might simply be “uncharacteristic.”

Jonathan Miller/El Defensor Chieftain: Socorro goalkeeper Tayler Hammack makes a save during a playoff shootout against Robertson.

Socorro played slightly out of sorts in Albuquerque against a team it had beaten previously on the season, and the end result was another unexpected, early postseason exit.

“We just didn’t pass today,” Lady Warriors head coach Mitch Carrejo said. “Our touches were just not there today. We weren’t working our short passing game like we did all year. That pretty much was the bottom line.”

What was expected was the strategy Robertson utilized against Dez Armijo in double and triple teaming her. The Cardinals defense frustrated the prolific goal-scoring senior all morning with pesky physical play, and never allowed her the breakaway opportunity Socorro’s opponents have become too dreadfully accustomed to seeing.

“We knew they were going to do that to Dez,” Carrejo said. “Sure they had three girls on Dez, but still we didn’t space out enough in front. We never carried the aggressiveness that we play with.”

Armijo said she was double-teamed all match long, and Robertson was basically doing anything it could to keep her from dribbling around them.

But she still managed to find the back of the net in the second half off a Tayler Hammack free kick from midfield, her 80th goal of the season, to give Socorro a 1-0 advantage.

“I’m just glad I got to score at state,” Armijo said.

The score gave the fifth-seeded Lady Warriors an undoubted burst of momentum, and for a few minutes it looked very much like Socorro would shake the demons from the previous two years. But even the most well-laid plans have the potential to crumble, and when Robertson sophomore Caitlin Diefendorf tied the match up off a free kick from 35 yards out a few minutes after Armijo’s goal, the balloon seemed to deflate for the Socorro faithful.

“She’s a really talented player,” Carrejo said of Diefendorf. “She perfectly placed the ball right over Tayler. It’s just one of those things.”

Socorro never really found its footing after that, but even when the whistle blew on the second overtime period and was about to proceed to match deciding penalty kicks, the Lady Warriors were in good shape. They have a goalkeeper in Hammack who’s probably the best in Class 3A. When she stopped two of Robertson’s first three penalty kick opportunities, the Socorro crowd was on the fragile cusp of breathing its biggest sigh of relief in three years. But a playoff win, for whatever reason, just wasn’t in the cards for this team.

The Lady Warriors put one penalty shot just wide of the woodwork and another flailed harmlessly into the Cardinals’ goalkeeper’s hands to extend the match. After the fifth penalty kick, the session went into sudden death, and number seven proved to be the unlucky number for Socorro.

“I feel like we played really good,” Hammack said. “We just kind of felt the pressure.”

It was a surreal but familiar feeling for Socorro as that last shot sailed right of the post.

“It was difficult. I’ve had these girls for five years,” Carrejo said in referring to his seniors. “We’ve gone through over 100 games together. I see the talent there, and to come up short the last three years, it’s heartbreaking to see that happen to them. I feel like they deserve better.”

Regardless of the agony of this loss, however, the Lady Warriors obviously still have plenty to smile about in referencing the 2012 season. It was after all a record-breaker, and every single member of this Socorro team played a part in seeing Armijo sew together the season and the career she did.

“I’m just going to miss my team,” Armijo said. “It was fun. I love my team.”

Aside from the loss, perhaps the other negative aspect of this season ending comes in seeing an extremely solid senior class walk off the pitch for the final time. Jeriana Contreras and her sister Damiana, Amanda Seanz, Bryn Botko, along with Hammack and Armijo have been heart and core of the Lady Warriors for many years now. Socorro no doubt has talent among the underclassmen, but these seniors have indeed provided some special moments.

“The girls, they’re just great,” Hammack said. “This team has worked so hard. They’re a bunch of great girls. I’ve been given opportunities in Socorro I may not have had otherwise.”

Socorro finishes the season with an overall record of 18-4, and again went undefeated in District 3-1A/3A play.