Even in defeat, the list of positives seemed to outweigh the negative, which was the final result for the Pojoaque Valley High School boys soccer team in its latest game.
The Elks, now 4-8 overall on the season, welcomed Class A-3A’s top ranked team in the state from Bosque School in their latest match on Oct. 3 at Jacona Field, and Pojoaque fought the Bobcats for the entire 80 minutes, falling just short in a 3-2 loss.
Bosque was shorthanded, but no No. 1 team fails to have depth at its disposal, so the way the Elks competed against such a strong opponent was more than encouraging for Pojoaque head coach Juan Ortiz.
“Our effort was good and we weren’t intimidated by them,” Ortiz said. “Granted, they weren’t playing a lot of their starters, but we took it to them. “
A couple of mental lapses in the first half helped aid the Bobcats’ first half scores, as the first came on a penalty shot. Bosque increased its lead and grabbed a 2-0 lead in the 22nd minute, but Pojoaque sophomore Cristian Holguin answered with a goal for the Elks just 18 seconds later.
The quick strike by Holguin helped Pojoaque build momentum and confidence, and left the Elks trailing only 2-1 at halftime.
“He was relentless all game,” Ortiz said. “He just kept attacking.”
Holguin has been relentless and on the attack all season long. He leads Pojoaque with 22 goals through 12 games, and he also assisted on Freddie Valencia’s goal late in the second half in the 70th minute, which came off a header.
Pojoaque continued to push in the game’s final 10 minutes, but Bosque stayed efficient with the ball in its possession and played solid defense to get out of town with the 1-goal victory and keep its top ranking.
“We kind of had them on the ropes at the end,” Ortiz said. “That was pretty exciting.”
Indeed, Pojoaque did. For the entirety of the game, the Elks outshot the Bobcats 22-10 overall, 16-9 in shots on goal and kicked four corners to Bosque’s one.
After the game, Ortiz said he saw a spark in his players because they understood how well they were able to stick with a caliber of a team like Bosque.
“There’s a little bit of fire in them now,” he said. “They got a taste of it (success), knowing they competed against a good team like this. Hopefully, they use that momentum in practice to help us come out on top in some of these district matches.”
Pojoaque began District 2-4A play Tuesday at Moriarty High School, but the result was not available by press time. As of Monday, Taos High School held the best overall record in the District at 9-1-1, defending state champion Los Alamos High School followed at 10-3 and Moriarty sat at 4-7-1.
Ortiz said he saw a superb defensive effort from Sebastian Rubio against Bosque, and Rubio is one of the key seniors on the team Ortiz is hoping can leave the program with some late success and good memories. Jafett Garcia and captains Jacen Lujan, Isaiah Saenz and Valencia are the others who round out the Elks’ senior class.
“We got to keep our effort up and keep competing,” Ortiz said. “We should be able to compete in the District. These guys are tired of losing and they’re ready to start winning. I hope the young guys can step up; it would be nice to send these seniors out with some victories.”
Pojoaque’s fourth win of the season came on the road in an 11-1 win over Grants High School on Sept. 28, and the victory gave the Elks their largest win total in a single season since 2017 when the club won five games.
If the momentum built against Bosque means anything, then Pojoaque should be able to reach six wins, and possibly more.
As of Monday, Holguin ranked second in the state in points with 55, just behind Kirtland Central High School’s Anesio Villegas. Holguin is also third in goals with 22, behind Las Cruces High School’s Gael Pena (23) and Villegas (28).
Elkettes still in 'elementary' stage
The best word to describe the Pojoaque Valley High School girls soccer team?
If you ask that question to the defacto head coach of the team, Charlie Oboli, he would tell you that word is still “elementary” to this point of the season.
Oboli, the assistant to head coach Allison Garcia-Dowdy, is more like the head coach, evident when you see him pace the sideline and yell out instructions while the Elkettes are on the field.
Oboli — the coach on the team with a soccer background — knows he’s dealing with a roster full of youth and inexperience, so his answer of “elementary” is no knock on the team, it’s just the reality he sees.
After the Elkettes fell to 2-11 overall on the season following a 6-0 home loss to Bosque School on Oct. 3, Oboli said the team’s will to keep the game competitive for as long as they did was a big step in the right direction.
Bosque led only 3-0 at halftime, and added two of its three goals in the second half near the end of game time.
“We’re still in the elementary stages of the game,” Oboli said. “We try to measure their growth by what we see game after game, and I tell you, we played a better team today. There’s no doubt about it, but we did stay organized and we made it a little more competitive.”
Most improved and most up to par was the Elkettes’ defense, mostly because they were continually put to the test. The Bobcats controlled possession and kept the ball down in Pojoaque’s end like clockwork.
The one who suffered most from this was Pojoaque goalkeeper Maddie Gonzales, but if it weren’t for her efforts, Bosque could have easily led by a ton more at halftime.
While the Elkettes defense did a solid job at keeping balls away from Gonzales and out of the goal and penalty area, they could have been more efficient if they played with better spacing and aggression.
Oboli often motioned for players to step up and move forward to meet Bosque players at the point of attack, rather than waiting for the opposition to make its way forward.
It’s just another part of the learning process, which will need more repetition in practice and games, alike.
“You got to move in sync,” Oboli said about the defense. “When the defenders are way down there (near the goal) and the attackers are still up (closer to midfield), that leaves a big vacuum in the middle and that gives a lot of room to the opposition. You want to try and keep it tight as possible. We need to get better at that and that will bring more balance to our team.”
Balance is still lacking for Pojoaque. The team is struggling to transition from defense to offense, and Bobcats’ goalkeeper Campbell Pacheco had an easy as afternoon as you could have, as the Elkettes only put together a solid offensive possession past midfield in the opening minutes of the game.
Other than that quick spurt, Bosque held possession virtually the entire game.
That led to 22 corners, and the Lady Bobcats scored their first five goals stemming from those scenarios. Overall, they posted 19 shots on goal on 29 overall shots.
Junior captain Abby Schneider led Bosque with four goals and Raila Jaffer and Alison Unruh added one apiece.
“We’re still working on not just handing teams wins, especially at this stage,” Oboli said. “We’re still working on the fundamentals, and this is a team built for the future. It’s going to be tough, and when you play tougher teams like Bosque, they make it tough.”
The Elkettes began their District 2-4A schedule Tuesday at Moriarty, but the result was not available by press time. They retake the field against Taos High School, again on the road, at 4 p.m., Thursday (10/10).
“Today was a good step in the right direction,” Oboli said. “Hopefully, before we get to the District games, we learn a lot more and know a lot more than we do today.”