Girls soccer: Pearls mussel way into 2A quarters

Jon Mitchell
Colorado Rocky Mountain School's Ella Hartshorn, front, fights for possession of the soccer ball against Resurrection Christian's Cecile Stevenson during the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs at the CRMS soccer field in Carbondale. The Pearls beat the Cougars 1-0 to advance to the state quarterfinals.
Jon Mitchell / Post Independent |

CARBONDALE — Nothing quite warms up a cold, soaking-wet body like the warmth of a victory in the state playoffs. Colorado Rocky Mountain School’s girls soccer team found that out firsthand on Tuesday afternoon.

Camden Brendlinger’s first-half goal gave the Pearls the lead for good, and CRMS withstood a steady downpour of rain and a furious comeback attempt from Resurrection Christian to claim a 1-0 victory in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the CRMS field.

“Wow,” said CRMS sweeper Isabel Weber, whose play on the Pearls’ back line was a key factor in her team pitching the shutout. “Never expected that we’d get this far, and the fact that we have now is an absolutely incredible feeling.”

She wasn’t the only one from CRMS who felt that way. After game officials blew the final whistle to signal the end of the game, the 100 or so students from the school who braved the harsh conditions — its total enrollment is a mere 167 students — rushed the field to celebrate with a program that had never in the school’s history reached the postseason until Tuesday.

“It’s pretty incredible that we’re here,” said CRMS goalkeeper Serena Blake, who recorded seven of her 12 saves in the second half. “It’s hard to describe how happy we all feel right now.”

Thanks to Tuesday’s victory, the Pearls (7-4-1) have a chance to string together their first postseason winning streak. They’ll advance to the quarterfinal round of the 12-team state playoffs to play at Dawson School (9-6-0), the No. 3 seed in the tournament. Start time is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday in Denver, with the winner moving on to play in the 2A semifinals on May 13.

“We definitely wanted to get here, but we definitely weren’t comfortable with a one-goal lead,” Weber said. “We knew that we had to step it up and get another goal or protect the goal like our lives depended on it.”

The Pearls are still alive in the postseason thanks to that defense. The first-half offense helped quite a bit, too.

Resurrection Christian (4-11-0) had some chances early, however, with Blake deflecting a shot from Eva VanDeList in the 16th minute enough for it to hit the crossbar and deflect back into her hands. CRMS responded, though, with Sophia Infante just missing on a pair of scoring opportunities within the next five minutes.

The Pearls broke through in the 24th minute, though, when Ella Hartshorn’s cross from the right side found a seam in the Cougars’ defense before it found Brendlinger, who flipped her shot from 10 yards away over the head of Cougars’ goalie Mary Shattuck for the only goal of the game.

The Cougars almost tied it up late, though. With 10 minutes left, VanDeList’s direct-kick shot from 35 yards away went wide right of the net. Then just five minutes later, Resurrection Christian’s Madeline Peacock took a crossing shot from just outside the left side of the 18-yard box that Blake deflected, then caught, to preserve the shutout.

Resurrection Christian never got another chance. And because of that, the Pearls have another chance to advance in the state playoffs.

“This is the best game we played all season,” Weber said. “I just hope that we can keep it going.”

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