Coal Ridge soccer state championship hopes thwarted by Peak to Peak
Coal Ridge soccer’s brilliant state championship run came to an end Wednesday evening after suffering a 2-1 loss to Peak to Peak in the 3A semifinals at Jeffco Trailblazer Stadium in Lakewood.
The 7th-ranked Pumas were coming off a quarterfinal upset over second-ranked Jefferson Academy while the third-ranked Titans were flying high off their 4-3 win over 22nd-ranked Middle Park.
“I think that we had the opportunities to make it happen and we just fell short,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Michael Mikalakis said. “We outplayed them. We just weren’t able to outscore them.”
Coal Ridge soccer ends the 2022 season having lost just two games all season while nabbing 14 wins. Meanwhile, Peak to Peak prepares to take on first-ranked Colorado Academy, a team that’s already recorded two shutouts in the 3A state tourney, in the championship game Saturday.
Wednesday’s game was as dramatic — if not more dramatic — as Coal Ridge’s previous two playoff matches. Titans senior Ezra Williams hit two crossbars on two free kicks outside of the 18. Titans junior goalkeeper, Jorge Kestler, collected five great saves just in the first half alone. The game was tied 1-1 with less than two minutes to play.
Adding to the insanity was an otherworldly play by Titans senior Ethan Stickler.
With the game still scoreless midway through the second half, Pumas junior, Matthew Wolsko, was given a yellow card — the Pumas’ third of the game. This set up Stickler for a free kick at least 50 yards away from Pumas senior goalkeeper Logan Hughes.
The distance didn’t matter to Stickler, who miraculously booted the ball over everyone’s heads and it somehow ended up in the net.
Less than two minutes later, Peak to Peak freshman Micah Thengvall blasted a free kick just outside the 18 past Kestler, tying the game at 1 apiece.
At the 7-minute mark, Williams had a chance to take a 2-1 lead on a free kick outside the Pumas’ 18 but ended up hitting his second crossbar of the night.
“We need to make sure that when we’re controlling possession on defense, we’re stepping in, closing the gaps, and I think when we did that well,” Mikalakis said. “We were in control, and we created a lot of opportunities.”
Peak to Peak responded with a heavy offensive zone presence in the last 5 minutes of regulation. Kestler continued to keep the ball out of his net, however, making a great stop on Pumas senior Chase Peterson at the 2-minute mark.
But at the 1:26 mark, Thengvall collected his second goal of the night by getting a slow roller past Kestler, and the go-ahead goal ended up being the game winner for Peak to Peak.
“We talk to our kids about how do you win and how do you lose and making sure you keep playing no matter what the situation is,” Mikalakis said. “I’m proud of how George took that on his shoulders.”
“I can’t tell you how many but he made a ton of great saves, and he had his hands on that one but it just rolled through.”
The Coal Ridge Titans end the season with 14-2-2 record.
“I’m super proud of how the boys played and held themselves throughout the entire year,” Mikalakis said.
The Titans lose 10 seniors, including players like Williams, Stickler, Filberto Marez and Abraham Roman. But returning next year are key players like Alexis Serna, Giovanni Parker and Kestler, all pivotal players during Coal Ridge’s state tourney push this season.
Having this playoff experience helps for the younger players stepping up next season. But more importantly, it’s how they’ll use those skills instilled by senior leadership this year, Mikalakis said.
“They really have created and established who we are as a program and what we’re looking for every single day,” Mikalakis said of his seniors. “It’s not about the wins and losses for us. It’s about how much we have a family on the pitch and off the pitch.”
“That comes from our senior leadership, and it bleeds through these young guys. Hopefully, they carry that on to the next season.”
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