Coal Ridge falls to Crusaders
PEACH VALLEY, Colorado – Down 6-0 with only a few minutes of injury time left to play, a lot of teams would have let down and settled for a shutout.
Not the Coal Ridge girls soccer team. With only moments left to play, Ashlie Bowles found Brianna Rhodes for a goal to get the Titans on the scoreboard in their Class 3A first-round playoff soccer game against Denver Christian on Saturday.While the Crusaders held on for a 6-1 victory, eliminating the Titans and ending their season, the playoff game marked the first postseason appearance for Coal Ridge’s program. The Titans finished with an 8-5-2 record and were the runner-up in the Western Slope League, making for a historical year.”I know these guys are already excited,” said Coal Ridge head coach Brian Blair. “They want to see if they can get a banner up for being runner-up. They want to start setting some tradition, some expectations for the program.”Not only did the Titans show what they were capable of during the regular season, but they did it on Saturday against Denver Christian – a team that consistently finishes in the final four in the state tournament.As a team in its third year of existence going up against one of Colorado’s best programs that was winning state titles before some of the current Titans were even born, Coal Ridge was not dominated in the match.
Instead, the Titans had a handful of great chances including breakaways by Chelsie Ryan, Bowles and Emily Johnson before Rhodes finally got one to go in. “Obviously some disappointment, 6-1, but we played really well today. We had a lot of opportunities, a couple breakaways that just didn’t turn out,” Blair said. “I didn’t feel like it was like ‘Wow wake up call, we can’t play at this level soccer.’ It was more like, ‘OK we need to keep developing a little bit and get a little more precise in what we do to compete with teams like this,’ but we are right there.”The game was locked at zero for 12 minutes before the Crusaders scored their first goal. They added two more to take a 3-0 lead with 8:30 left to go in the first. Coal Ridge, which hadn’t yet gotten a shot on goal, then turned its offense up a notch and fired off four attempts before the halftime whistle blew.Denver Christian added three more goals in the final 40 minutes before Coal Ridge finally found a way to capitalize on one of its chances.
“It was really nice. It was nice to go out and finish it on a strongish note,” said Rhodes of scoring the lone Titan goal. “And we never gave up. We all played as a team.”The game was the last for two Titans – defender Allyssa Little and goalie Vanessa Hinojos, who made 13 saves in the game. Blair was proud of the duo, who were the first seniors to suit up for the Titans. “It is tough to be the first seniors and to have to do it for three years because you were the first sophomores, the first juniors and now you’re the first seniors,” he said. “They stuck with it all three years and they probably could have gone to another program with a more experienced team and maybe they would have gotten here a little earlier, but instead they are the building blocks that we are going to add onto in the future years. I commend them for that.”The Titans may be through this year, but with only two seniors graduating, they figure to pose a threat not only on the Western Slope, but perhaps in the postseason as well. Through the tears on the players’ faces on the sideline after the loss, proud smiles shone through as they reflected on the successful season.”It has been mind-blowing. It has been such an amazing experience,” said Rhodes. “I am so proud of my team because it takes every one of us out there to get where we are right now and you know we didn’t come out on top of this game, but there is still a lot more of Coal Ridge that they are going to see.”
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Fans, players and coaches on both sides of Stubler Memorial Field seemed to know it would come down just the way it did, regardless of who had the ball at the end.