Bears face state’s No. 1 in first round
The Rifle Bears are starting at the top in their bid for the state girls soccer title.
Rifle (10-4-2) is in the unenviable position of playing the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A State Soccer Tournament when it travels to Mullen (12-3) for an 11 a.m. contest Saturday.
But the Bears wouldn’t have it any other way, according to coach Tom Taucher.
“We knew going in that we were going to be playing one of the top teams, and we were actually hoping it would be Mullen,” Taucher said. “We’re going to the sweet 16 and we might as well play the best. Our girls are very excited about it.
“I think (the Rifle players) respect Mullen, but I don’t think they are intimidated or afraid of them,” he added.
The key for Rifle, according to Taucher, will be not falling behind early and working for a low-score victory – something the Bears have proven very adept at this the season.
Rifle has only scored more than three goals three times this year, but typically the Bears don’t let opponents tickle the twine more than once a game.
In the Bears’ four losses the opponent netted two goals or more. Every other game, however, Rifle held its opponents to one goal or less.
“Every team is beatable,” Taucher said. “We can’t give up a goal in the first 15-20 minutes and we have to play for a 1-0 or 2-1 type of game. We believe in defense first in all aspects on the field.”
Ashley Gavito and Nikki Erpested anchor the defense and Megan Burner has been solid down the stretch in net. The Bears have only allowed one goal in the last five games.
Rifle is also coming off its biggest offensive game of the year after defeating Brighton 5-1 in the regional playoff.
Gerri Legg notched two goals and an assist in the contest, which could bode well for the Bears Saturday.
“Gerri Legg is playing with more confidence, and confidence goes a long way in high school,” Taucher said.
Mullen, which plays essentially a 5A schedule in the Centennial League, also has an exceptional defense and brings a four-game shutout streak into the contest. Mullen only allowed more than two goals once this season – a 3-0 loss to Chatfield. It’s other losses came against Green Mountain and Smoky Hill.
The winner of the game faces Longmont (7-5-3), which beat Golden 3-0 on Wednesday night.
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