Coal Ridge beats Bennett, stays alive
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
PEACH VALLEY, Colorado – The dark, ominous skies and cold, gusting wind were the least of problems for Bennett’s girls soccer team.
The Tigers, in Peach Valley to take on Coal Ridge in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs on Tuesday, had plenty enough to deal with in the form of the Titans.
Exploding for two goals late in the first half and three more in the second half, Coal Ridge earned a trip to 3A’s round of 16 with a 5-0 win over Bennett.
“They really came out firing in the second half,” Tigers coach Harrison Rogers said. “They’re a good team, but we stayed with them. We hit a post, missed a few shots. We missed some chances, but [Coal Ridge] deserved to win.”
While Bennett had a few promising looks at net, notably a clanker off the post by Krystina Powell late in the first half, the Titans regularly visited the attacking third of pitch.
Coal Ridge parlayed that pressure into a goal for the first time in the 18th minute, when Kourtney Mitchell found her way into the 18-yard box and fired an off-balance roller with some juice on it. Bennett goalkeeper Vanessa Garay made the stop but couldn’t fully secure possession. A lurking Ashlie Bowles tapped in the rebound and the Titans were on the board.
Coal Ridge scored again in the 27th minute, when Brianna Rhodes left a short pass for teammate Alicia Cokley, who lofted a shot toward net from 20 or so yards out. Garay, positioned directly next to the post on her right, got a hand on the ball but punched it off the post and in.
The Titans’ attack bred more scoring chances in the second half.
After a series of near-misses, Coal Ridge extended its lead in the 62nd minute with a another goal by Cokley, who opportunistically rebounded a shot off the post by teammate Chelsie Ryan.
Cokley’s two-goal day certainly seized the attention of Coal Ridge coach Brian Blair.
“For two years in a row now, when the playoffs come, that girl just puts the ball in the net,” he said of the sophomore forward. “It’s kind of cool to see kids like that, ones who know how to take it up a notch.”
The Titans took it up another notch or two in the waning minutes of the second half, finding net twice more.
Audrey Asplund converted a cross from Cokley in the 67th minute and Ryan chipped in a score in the 73rd minute to round out the final count.
And so ended one of the better halves of soccer Coal Ridge has produced all season.
“I think that’s the best we’ve played all year,” Asplund offered. “We were out there saying, ‘We haven’t played this good all season.’ It feels really good.”
That stellar second half tailed a first half that wasn’t necessarily up to par in Blair’s eyes.
“I thought, in the first half, we weren’t playing real well,” he said. “I think we got duped into their style of soccer, which is long balls and trying to get a forward over the top from 30, 40 yards. We got some goals, but it really wasn’t the type of soccer I want to play. I don’t think it’s the type of soccer that’s going to beat some of the best teams in the state.”
Coal Ridge’s style of play improved by leaps and bounds as the game wore on.
“I thought we did really well in the second half,” Blair said. “The ball stayed on our feet. We went from spot to spot to spot and got good shots. That’s the type of soccer we need to play to get into the later rounds.”
Those later rounds begin on Saturday. Playing at home once again, the sixth-seeded Titans (13-1-2) will face No. 11 Discovery Canyon (10-5) at 11 a.m.
This is the second straight postseason in which Coal Ridge has reached the second round.
Bennett finished up its season with an 8-5-2 record.
Tuesday’s game between the Titans and Tigers was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but the teams opted to play a day earlier to beat the storm system that’s working its way through Colorado.
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