Hobbs defender Joslynn Nelson battles a Cleveland
player during the Lady Eagles' 3-0 win Saturday in the
first round of the Class 5A state tournament in Hobbs.
After all, the Rio Rancho-based Storm had battled a brutal schedule and played in arguably the toughest district in the state in District 1-5A (three of the top six seeds are in the district). Cleveland finished fourth in the district while also claiming wins over Mayfield and Las Cruces – teams Hobbs lost to.
Add to it the questions surrounding Hobbs. Despite a 17-3 mark heading into Saturday’s contest and outscoring its opponents 105-14, the Lady Eagles featured the fifth-weakest schedule in Class 5A according to MaxPreps.com and their losses came to teams seeded below them in the Class 5A tournament (No. 8 Mayfield, No. 9 Carlsbad, No. 11 Las Cruces).
The 12th-seeded Storm looked to have a shot at an upset of the No. 5 Lady Eagles.
There was, however, no shot.
Hobbs’ Jessica Singleton needed just three minutes to give the Lady Eagles a lead and two more Singleton goals and a gutsy and tenacious effort by Hobbs’ defenders and goalkeeper Alejandra Espinoza ended the Storm’s season with a 3-0 Hobbs win.
The Lady Eagles with the victory told the remaining seven teams in the Class 5A playoffs this Southeastern New Mexico team is for real.
The scary part is, Hobbs offensively didn’t play very well Saturday – struggling to keep possession and forcing the defense to shoulder a lot of the load.
Cleveland has played the best this season – No. 1 La Cueva, No. 2 Eldorado, No. 3 Cibola (beat the Cougars once), No. 4 Rio Rancho, No. 6 Volcano Vista and No. 7 Sandia – and never lost by more than two goals in a game.
Until Saturday, that is.
But there is good precedent for not believing in teams from the southern part of New Mexico – particularly from the southeast corner.
Since girls soccer became an NMAA-sanctioned sport in New Mexico in 1981, only Las Cruces High has come from the southern part of the state and PLAYED in a state championship game (they won state titles in 2003 and 2005 and lost in the title game in 2006).
One reason for this is teams in this part of the state can’t schedule Texas opponents. In every other sport, schools like Hobbs depend on scheduling Texas teams to fill out a competitive schedule.
However in Texas, soccer is played in the spring and teams like Hobbs, Carlsbad and Clovis (along with the Las Cruces-based schools with their close proximity to El Paso) are forced to play less talented teams multiple times – not getting the quality contests to prepare for tough games against Albuquerque-area schools.
It’s part of why nobody else in 31 seasons (including all the other classifications) has made it to a state championship from the south outside of Las Cruces High.
But Hobbs has a chance to change that this season.
With an ever-improving defense, a lock-down goalkeeper and plenty of scoring power – the Lady Eagles have as good a chance as anyone to take home the state title in a classification riddled with parity. There isn’t a dominating team in the field.
Combine them with a talented Carlsbad team and two of the final eight teams come from Southeastern New Mexico – both with a shot to make serious noise.
It could be a historic final week of the season in Albuquerque next week.