Demons knocked off by Bulldogs in first round
Two second-half goals by the No. 17 Pueblo Centennial Bulldogs on Wednesday night was enough to eek out a tight 3-2 win on the road at Stubler Memorial Field in Glenwood over the No. 16 Demons in the first round of the 4A Colorado High School Activities Association’s girls soccer state playoffs.
Prior to the Bulldogs’ upset win on the road, the game was delayed for nearly two hours due to lightning strikes in the area as both teams headed into the locker rooms with 30:37 left on the clock in the first half. As heavy rains — and some small hail — poured down and lightning filled the sky just after 4 p.m., serious doubts were raised about the game being able to continue later in the evening, but the skies cleared up, allowing the two teams back onto the field to settle the first-round matchup in less-than-ideal field conditions.
Early on following the delay, the slick, muddy field didn’t seem to bother the young, fast Demons. They struck quickly at the 23:01 mark as freshman forward Natalya Taylor found the back of the net off of a free kick from sophomore Sarah Helm to give the Demons an early 1-0 lead.
Forty-eight seconds later, junior Eryn Peterson capitalized on a Pueblo Centennial turnover, unleashing a laser of a shot just under the crossbar to give Glenwood a big 2-0 lead, putting the visiting Bulldogs on their heels early following the long delay.
The score would hold until late in the half when the Bulldogs started to mount a consistent attack, breaking through Glenwood’s stout back line multiple times to fire shots on net. Fortunately for Glenwood, junior goalkeeper Katrina Thisgaard was able to make a stop using her head to keep the Bulldogs off the board late in the half.
However, just over two minutes later the Bulldogs broke through for the first goal of the game as sophomore midfielder Fernanda Rios leapt high into the air in the box to get her head on a corner kick, pounding it home for the goal to pull Pueblo Centennial to within one, 2-1, at the half.
Following the quick halftime break, the two teams re-emerged with Glenwood just 40 minutes away from winning the first-round home game. But disaster struck quickly as Pueblo Centennial senior midfielder Cara Siegel pounced on a loose ball in the box, tapping home the shot to tie the game at 2-2 just 1:20 into the second half of play.
Siegel’s goal came as a result of a mad scramble in front the goal as Thisgaard tried to get to the ball at the goal mouth, but the junior was stuck in mud and simply couldn’t seem to find traction to get to the ball.
“The message at the half was to keep playing our game,” Glenwood Head Coach Joe Calabrese said. “We needed to keep playing it to the feet and not get rattled by the physical nature of play that picked up near the end of the half with the other team getting frustrated. Unfortunately, when the other team comes out quickly and scores like that, it’s a little bit of a setback. And then to give up that last goal was just brutal.
“The field conditions definitely had a factor, but both teams played in it. I’m not going to point the finger at the conditions as the reason for the loss, but it definitely affected play in a negative way.”
With the game tied at 2-2, Glenwood picked up the pace quickly as Peterson found herself in Pueblo Centennial’s box time and time again, but the Demons just couldn’t find the back of the net as senior goalkeeper Karlee Salas came up with big save after big save and held the Demons at bay.
As Salas stood tall in goal, Pueblo Centennial was able to flip the field, resulting in the go-ahead goal by Siegel at the 19:35 mark of the second half.
The senior found herself alone on the right wing, where she worked her way into the box and beat a diving Thisgaard low and to the left for the 3-2 lead.
Trailing by one at home and with time dwindling down, Glenwood went right back to work offensively as Peterson, senior Bailey Cox and senior Nina Scruton pushed hard for the Demons, forcing Salas to come up with big stops to preserve the lead.
Late in the second half, Peterson pulled off a nice move on freshman defender Allyson Sparks to get a run into the box, but the junior couldn’t settle the ball in time to get off a great shot, resulting in two big blocked shots by the Bulldogs to keep Peterson and the Demons off the board.
“We had our chances tonight,” Calabrese said. “We just weren’t able to finish some of those chances, and that’s sometimes the cruelty of the game.”
After Peterson’s run came up short, Glenwood just couldn’t mount that one final push as the Bulldogs did a good job of maintaining possession to kill time, resulting in the 3-2 win on the road.
With the loss at home, Glenwood ends a terrific second season under the direction of Calabrese as the Demons finish the year with an 11-5, 9-3 4A Western Slope League record, good for second in a tough league.
Fortunately for the Demons, it’s a young group with tons of talent, so a minor setback in the playoffs could lead to a major breakthrough next year.
“I want this group to feel proud of themselves for what they did this season,” Calabrese said. “They improved by leaps and bounds, and I want them to remember the emotion and intensity of moments like this on this big stage.”
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