Glenwood girls have nothing to hang heads about |

Glenwood girls have nothing to hang heads about

The wound is still fresh for the Glenwood Springs girl’s soccer team, which dropped a first-round decision Wednesday night to Pueblo Centennial in the state playoffs, but the girls that comprise this talented group have nothing to hang their heads about.

Sure, the girls couldn’t hold onto a 2-1 lead at home in a playoff matchup, which happened to be their first trip to the state playoffs since 2012, but what a terrific year it was for the Demons.

They might not want to hear this right now since they lost at home in heartbreaking fashion, but there is nothing to be ashamed of this season because of how great of a season they had, how much interest they generated here in the valley, and — above all else — how much of a joy they were to watch throughout the 2017 season.

As a group, Glenwood was fast, smart and tough, causing tons of problems for opposing teams in the offensive zone and defensive zone. Credit to the coaching staff of head coach Joe Calabrese and assistants Elliott Smith, Evan Segal and Garrett Peters for getting the most out of this talented group due to schematic changes, as well as an overall shift in team dynamic in the two years that Calabrese has called the shots from the sideline.

You could tell right away this year that this group was much more together and in lock-step compared to previous seasons where talented players seemed to coast, but that simply wasn’t the case this year due to the accountability brought by every single player on the roster, starting with senior captains Nina Scruton and Bailey Cox.

This team never slacked off on the field, bringing the intensity and focus of a talented team for 80-plus minutes in every game. That alone played a huge part in the Demons improving from 6-8 in 2016 to 11-5 this season and a berth in the state playoffs for the first time in five years.

Granted, Wednesday’s loss to the Bulldogs is a tough pill to swallow for this group, but I truly believe that with their talent, they would have rolled to a win over Pueblo Centennial on a dry field in normal conditions.

Wednesday’s game was thrown for a loop 10 minutes into the game due to lightning strikes delaying the game for just over two hours. In that two-hour window, it poured at a steady pace for much of the time, turning the field into a slick surface, which led to the development of muddy spots on the field as players plodded up and down the field all night long.

In fact, Pueblo Centennial’s second goal to tie the game just after the stop of the second half was a direct result of said muddy spots as sophomore goalkeeper Katrina Thisgaard had a hard time finding traction along the goal line, leading to a tap-in goal for the Bulldogs. Thisgaard no doubt makes that save every single time on a dry field. But such is life in sports, especially in the playoffs in Colorado.

Calabrese refused to use the weather and field conditions as the reason the Demons lost, and rightfully so; good on him for that. But from my small vantage point in the press box it significantly hindered the Glenwood attack.

A loss is a loss, though, and there’s nothing the Demons can do but hold their heads high and be proud of a terrific season in 2017.

From here on out though, this is where the hard work begins for the next edition of the Glenwood squad. Fortunately for Calabrese, he has an incredibly talented team returning, saying goodbye to just two starters in Scruton and Cox, along with fellow seniors Mae Lang Burns and Carly Shimp, each of whom played key roles off the bench this past season.

It’ll be tough to say goodbye to the senior stalwarts, but on paper, Glenwood might be even better next season due to the experience the younger players gained this season on the varsity level.

Back next season are juniors Devan McSwain and Eryn Peterson, both of whom should step into key senior leadership roles with McSwain serving as the steadying midfield presence while Peterson should light up the scoreboard next year in the attacking role.

But the real strength of this group is the sophomore class that will be juniors next season, starting with a dominant back line of Julia Mulhall, Leigh Anne Johnson and Ashley Weir. The group was easily the most important part of this past season’s team as each player was outstanding at stopping opposing attacks before countering from defense to offense quickly. The final piece of that back line group is freshman Celia Scruton, who was arguably the loudest player on the field in 2017 for the Demons. I say that in a good way because the freshman was so good at communicating in every aspect of the game, setting up her fellow teammates for success. She’ll no doubt be a key piece for Glenwood the next three seasons.

Add in sophomore midfielder Sarah Helm (a junior in ’18) and freshman forward Natalya Taylor (a sophomore in ’18), and it’s quite clear just how special this group can be over the next few seasons.

Oftentimes with young groups, it takes losing in the playoffs and feeling that pain on the big stage to take that next step forward and really go on a run. If everything breaks right over the next few years, don’t be surprised if this group of Glenwood girls pulls off some deep runs in the state playoffs.

So don’t hang your heads, girls. Keep them high and be proud of what you did this year, but also get excited about what’s to come. Brighter days are definitely on the horizon.

I’m excited to be along for that ride.

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