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Budding Lea rivalry? Wildcats beat Eagles’ in soccer home opener

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The battle for Lea County boys’ soccer bragging rights went to Lovington Tuesday as the visiting Wildcats beat the Eagles 1-0 at Watson Memorial Stadium. The game was the first of the season for Lovington and the home debut for new Eagles’ coach Alejandro Chavez.

“It was one of those things where you hold your breath long enough and you finally feel like, hey lets let it out and lets go play some soccer,” Lovington coach Reyes Marquez said. “We came out like gangbusters and went and scored. We had a real decent first half. The second half we were a little depleted.”

The Eagles’ coach plans to use Tuesday’s loss as a way to help improve his team.

“We are going to learn from this,” Chavez said. “We are going to learn and fix it up.” The game was a long-time coming for Chavez who replaced retired Jose Mares. Chavez had to wait a long time for his home debut, but was glad he was able to finally get the first home game under his belt.

“It felt great,” the Eagles coach said. “Having the crowd being here, with the boys playing, it was just a great feeling.”

The only goal of the game came early, just 99 seconds into the match and from an unlikely source, Steven Valverde.

“It is really cool that I got to be the first goal (of our season),” Valverde said. This is just my second goal. I don’t normally score because I play defense.”

“We were hungry, but (the goal) kind of settled us a little bit,” Marquez added. “We had that relief. We scored a goal early.”

Lovington was able to set up the goal on a corner kick from Ryan Marquez that Valverde got his head on. Though the shot was initially blocked, it ricocheted back to Valverde who then kicked it past the Hobbs goalkeeper.

“The ball came and I hit it with my head into the goalkeeper,” Valverde said. “It bounced and I just banged it into the goal. It was wide open.”

Valverde said getting that early lead was big for the Wildcats.

“That was a big, big confidence boost,” he said. “When you score early in the game, you basically win the match.”

That was it for the scoring. Though both teams had opportunities during the rest of the game, nothing came of it.

“We were expecting to score more,” Valverde said. “But it didn’t happen.”

After the Wildcats were able to get the early goal, the Eagles’ defense stepped up, preventing anything further.

“We started off slow,” Chavez said. “But, then we started picking it up.”

With the loss, Hobbs falls to 1-1 on the season. The Eagles will be back on the field Thursday when they travel to Roswell for a match against the Rockets. As for Lovington, the Wildcats are 1-0 and will now host the Roswell Coyotes in their home opener on Thursday.

“We are going to take it day by day,” Chavez said. “We are going to work on our attacking and after that we should be good.”

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