In their last regular season home game, the Taos Lady Tigers didn't disappoint.
While Moriarty opted to play physical - on many occasions players were knocked down, pushed and hit with apparent intent - Taos matched them on that part and took home a hard-fought 1-0 victory Saturday afternoon (Oct. 26) at Taos Eco Park.
And that victory inevitably helped the Lady Tigers make their way into the state tournament. On Sunday afternoon (Oct. 27), Taos was selected as the ninth seed. They will play eighth-seeded Silver City on the road on Saturday (Nov. 2) at noon in the first round.
"If we all play with heart and to the best of our abilities, we can [go far] in this tournament," captain and senior Cassandra Ruiz said.
Against Moriarty, Taos was by no means an offensive powerhouse. The Lady Tigers instead opted to use other, more viable tools for winning: ball control and a strong defensive presence.
In the beginning moments of the game, Moriarty got a quick start on offense, taking its first shot on goal just a few minutes in, when Naomi Hernandez struck the ball toward the net after receiving a pass from teammate Olivia Lopez. However, that didn't matter much as Taos goalkeeper Aaliyah Suazo blocked the attempt.
Moriarty - at least in the first 20 minutes of the first half - controlled the ball. Taos, on the other hand, played stellar defense at that time, as Ella Katz, Ella Green and Rose Marie van Willigen made it tough for the Lady Pintos to score.
But Taos started to find its groove. Selina Bayles made a nice pass between defenders to Sienna Sategna, who had a nice shot but missed wide to the right.
Then, with about 10 minutes remaining in the first half, the Lady Tigers scored their first goal. It was a corner kick pass from Kelly Tonrey to Sategna, who shot from the deep left side to make it 1-0.
In the second half, Taos looked like a much different team. The Lady Tigers controlled the ball on offense and had their fair share of scoring attempts - though they failed to make a goal. But it was their defense that ended up winning them the game.
Ruiz matched the intensity of the Moriarty players and it transferred over to her Taos teammates. In the final moments of the game, the Lady Tigers looked like the completely dominant team as they passed the ball to one another precisely - much to the dismay of a frustrated Moriarty squad.
Although she hadn't played goalkeeper until a couple games ago when Amiree Olivas injured herself, Suazo played excellently, blocking all attempts from the Lady Pintos.
"They were fighting hard," Tonrey said, when asked how tough it was facing Moriarty in her team's final regular season game.
Ruiz added: "We both definitely really wanted to win this game. But we held our side up and did what we needed to do."
Now in the state tournament, Taos needs to keep winning to keep its hopes - and its season - alive. If the Lady Tigers defeat Silver City next Saturday (Nov. 2), they will face first-seed St. Pius X on the road the weekend after.