PARACHUTE, Colorado - Grand Valley High School's girls soccer team made a habit of going up big early in its first three games of the season. On Tuesday, the Coal Ridge Titans made sure the Cardinals couldn't catch up.
Coal Ridge's defensive back line took control from the start, then broke away with three unanswered goals during a 6-2 Class 3A Western Slope League victory at the Grand Valley High soccer field.
"They have a lot of speed up top, so you really have to be patient and drop back on defense," said Coal Ridge junior sweeper Alicia Hampton, one of the key parts of the Titans' success on defense. "They like to pull you in and shoot it past you. We were just patient and stayed back."
Patience paid off for Coal Ridge (3-1-0), which outshot Grand Valley 15-8 and limited the Cardinals to just three shots in the first half. That turned out to be big, as Grand Valley (3-1-0) had outscored its previous three opponents 31-2.
"It's good for this group to have a little adversity," Grand Valley coach Eric Sarno said. "These girls have had the luxury of playing with three- and four-goal leads. We're not used to coming from behind, and obviously [Coal Ridge] handled it a lot better than we did."
Paige Ryan scored a pair of goals and Becca Collins, Amanda Wenzel, Ashley Strong and Kelsey Fauser also scored for the Titans, whose three unanswered goals snapped a 1-1 tie early in the first half. That came despite the Titans' limited scoring opportunities early on, even though Grand Valley's scoring chances were even more limited.
"It all starts with the defense," Ryan said. "It starts with containing and giving us opportunities to push the ball up."
Wenzel put the Titans on the board when she shot the ball past goal keeper Erin Schuckers off a rebounded shot from the right side. But the Cardinals came right back, as Randi Sheridan stole the ball from Coal Ridge's Kyrie Foreman and broke to the net for a goal in the 14th minute to knot the score at 1-all.
Coal Ridge broke away from there. Ryan's 30-yard shot hit the upper right-hand corner of the goal in the 39th minute, and her goal on a breakaway up the left side of the field nine minutes later pushed the Titans' lead to 3-1. A crossing shot from Collins seven minutes later upped the lead to three, but Ashlynn Speakmen's penalty kick goal in the 66th minute cut the Cards' deficit to 4-2.
Strong scored two minutes later, however, and Fauser found the net in the 79th minute to cap the Titans' scoring.
"Our back line has just don a great job of being a wall for us, especially today," first-year Coal Ridge coach Micah Herron said. "They not only did a good job of clearing the ball from back there, but finding the feet of their teammates up front."
Brooke Esgar finished with eight saves in goal for Coal Ridge, who play at Vail Mountain School on Thursday. Schuckers finished with six of the Cardinals' eight saves for Grand Valley, which plays at Roaring Fork on Thursday.