Titans topple the Tigers
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
PEACH VALLEY, Colorado – Up 1-0 roughly 10 minutes into the second half, Brian Blair’s frustration was evident.
“We’re getting too many good opportunities,” the Coal Ridge girls soccer coach shouted at his players. “We need to put one in.”
His players were listening.
Behind a flurry of second-half goals, Blair’s Titans turned that 1-0 lead into a 5-2 win over visiting Bennett in the opening round of the 3A state playoffs on Wednesday.
Kelsey Fauser and Paige Ryan scored two goals apiece in the second and Allie Ehlers added a first-half strike as Coal Ridge, seeded 11th in the 32-team bracket, advanced to the round of 16 for the third straight season.
And, for the second straight season, the Titans are bound for the second round at Bennett’s expense. Coal Ridge defeated the Tigers, 5-0, in the first round last spring.
It took some time for the Titans to shake the playoff jitters on a wet, windy and frigid Wednesday, though.
“When we first started out, we had some jitters,” said Fauser, a sophomore. “Plus, our seniors were sad that it might be their last home game. We came out with a ton of emotion and it definitely affected our play.”
Once the first 10 minutes or so ticked off the clock, Coal Ridge began dominating the possession battle.
In the 23rd minute, Ehlers put the hosts on the board, taking a pass from Becca Mitchell and moving the ball up a wide-open left side before lining a shot into the net.
“She hammered it well with her left foot,” Blair said. “It was a good goal.”
The score remained 1-0 until an opportunistic Fauser struck in the 54th minute.
Ehlers sent a long free kick into the box, where Ryan attempted to settle the ball with her body as she charged toward Bennett goalkeeper Morgan Durham. The ball ricocheted off Ryan to Fauser, who drilled a left-footed goal from a few yards out.
Bennett immediately responded with a 55th-minute goal from Makenna Linn, but that’s as close as the 22nd-seeded Tigers would get.
Ryan extended Coal Ridge’s advantage to 3-1 in the 58th minute, uncorking a blast from the edge of the 18-yard box that found its way inside the near post. Ryan somehow got the shot off with three defenders in the vicinity.
Ryan added another goal off an Alicia Cokley corner kick in the 66th minute. Fauser scored her second in the 70th.
The Tigers’ Casey Kopang rounded out the final count with a goal in the 77th minute.
“We weren’t accustomed to the pressure and the speed [Coal Ridge] brought to us,” said Bennett coach Monte Whisler, whose team wrapped the season with an 11-5 record. “Coal Ridge came out really hard. They came out fast. Towards the end of the season, we had a lot of pretty easy teams. I think we lapsed back a little bit.”
It didn’t help that the Titans contained Krystina Powell, Bennett’s leading goal scorer who had found net 40 times entering Wednesday’s game.
“We knew we had to mark her,” Fauser said. “We just stuck on her. We always had someone on her to block her goals because she shoots on the outside.”
By containing Powell and the Tigers, Coal Ridge (14-2) earned a date with either No. 6 St. Mary’s Academy or No. 27 James Irwin in Saturday’s second round.
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