Article & Photos by Jonathan Noah Padilla
As we continue looking forward to the coming season, I want to highlight a few NMAA Boys Soccer teams that I think everyone should watch this fall. In no particular order, they are:
Albuquerque Academy Chargers
If you watch high school soccer in New Mexico you already know Albuquerque Academy is a top program year in and year out. Their past five seasons have finished as follows: 2017 runner up, 2018 champion, 2019 semifinals, 2020 champion, 2021 champion. Last season, the Chargers were the only team to beat the 2021 5A Champion Santa Fe High School. Head Coach, Laney Kolek, knows the game and her players do as well. Academy will have a strong midfield and defense consisting of returning seniors, Jude Logan and Ethan Saiz. Returning junior Ben Meade will also be a part of that. Another returning junior, Luke Babinski, will help lead the attack for the Chargers. He finished third on the team in goals last season with 11. Academy is poised for another great season and will be fun to watch in the fall.
Notable returners: Ethan Saiz, Jude Logan, Ben Meade, and Luke Babinski
Santa Fe Demons
Santa Fe is the Defending 5A champion. A huge part of their success came from Alex Waggoner who had 73 goals last season. He is a great asset and is always a threat to take over games single-handedly. If you need an example of what I am talking about, look no further than the 2021 Championship game where he scored all 4 goals for Santa Fe. Waggoner will have some support as the Demons will have a solid midfield. Ivan Lozano will be a key player in that mid as he can score and dish the ball out for assists. Joining him in the middle will be returning seniors Max Anderson and Evan Eadie. Senior, Owen Lock, will be back to help out with defense. Can Santa Fe repeat as champions? They certainly have a good shot.
Notable returners: Alex Waggoner, Ivan Lozano, M Anderson, Evan Eadie, and Owen Lock
Atrisco Heritage Jaguars
Atrisco Heritage Academy was a shocker last year and they were my favorite story of the 2021 boys soccer season. Their record (12-9) does not give them enough credit. The Jaguars ended their regular season by sweeping their entire district to become the last team into the state tournament. To cap off that sweep, Atrisco beat Rio Rancho in a thriller of a match. They beat the Rams again as the #12 seed three days later in the first round of the tournament. Atrisco then proceeded to knock off #4 seed Hobbs High School to make it to the semifinals where they lost 2-1 to eventual 5A champion Santa Fe High School. That remarkable run should not be overlooked. Atrisco played with passion in every game that I watched them play in last season. Passion is a huge decision maker in close games which Atrisco often found themselves in last year. Sophomore Jaziel Perez will be pivotal in this team’s continued success. Look for Alex Saenz, Marco Lara to bring back vital experience for the Jaguars as well. If you enjoy passionate play mixed with great skill, go watch the Jaguars.
Notable returners: Erick Corral-Torres, Jaziel Perez, Alex Saenz, and Marco Lara
Volcano Vista Hawks
Volcano Vista is quite a skilled team. Last season they finished second in their district and made it into the state tournament. One returner to be excited about is Keegan Monnheimer. He will be a valuable asset in the midfield for the Volcano Vista. Other Hawks to look out for are Eziah Hernandez and Jacob Schreiner. They are in one of the tougher districts in the state but look for the Hawks to be competitive.
Notable returners: Keegan Monnheimer, Eziah Hernandez, and Jacob Schreiner
La Cueva Bears
La Cueva had a heartbreaking and season ending loss against a Sandia High School in the semifinals last year. The Bears had a phenomenal season in 2021. Brandon Morinigo and Chris Lugones are two talented players that can combine to fill the vacated role of Brendon Baird who had 37 goals last year. Supporting those two goal scorers will be Chase Ricker and Mason Barone. Both can dish the ball and help create opportunities for their team. With the amount of talent at La Cueva, they can easily have another outstanding season in 2022. I foresee them entering Fall 2022 with a chip on their shoulder so don’t be surprised if the Bears are steam rolling opponents.
Notable returners: Mason Barone, Brandon Morinigo, Chris Lugones, Chase Ricker, and Cole Bachuzewski
Lovington High School has been to the championship for two straight seasons. Unfortunately for them, they had to face that first team I spoke about in this list (Albuquerque Academy). The Wildcats have shown that they are not a fluke. They are a seasoned playoff team. Both Kevin Gallegos and Lucas Contreras will be valuable tools for Lovington’s attack. Senior Ryan Marquez will not only help shore up the midfield for the Wildcats but he will also provide key leadership for the team. The Wildcats will be looking to get back to the championship and they will also be looking to finally seal the deal. Can this be the year that Lovington gets the monkey off their back?
Notable returners: Kevin Gallegos, Ryan Marquez, Lucas Contreras
Other Notable teams to watch: Hobbs Eagles, Albuquerque Bulldogs, Sandia Matadors, Rio Rancho Rams, Sandia Prep Sundevils, Gadsden Panthers, and Highland Hornets
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