Glenwood Springs’ magical season ends in 2-1 loss to Valor Christian
All good things must come to an end, one way or another. Unfortunately for the Glenwood Springs Demons girls soccer team, that end happened earlier than they’d have liked.
On the road Saturday afternoon at Legacy Stadium in Aurora for the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 4A soccer semifinal matchup with the No. 2 Valor Christian Eagles, the No. 6 Demons came up short in the end, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Eagles in a rainy, wind-swept day in Aurora.
The loss ends the best season in Glenwood girls soccer history, as the Demons made the run to the state semifinals, beating the likes of Thompson Valley (4-0), Pueblo Centennial (3-2), and Holy Family (3-2), trailing for just a total of two minutes throughout the playoffs before Saturday’s loss to Valor Christian.
With the wind and rain whipping through the stadium early Saturday afternoon, the game got off to a slow start, as the Eagles were intent on playing the ball over the top of the Glenwood back line, forcing Glenwood junior goalkeeper Hannah Juul to punt the ball away a handful of times. Each time, the two teams were unable to gain possession, as the ball stayed in the air for a large chunk of the first half, making for a slow-paced game.
Wanting to win the first 15 minutes to set the tone, the Demons weren’t able to do that with the style of soccer that developed early. Add in some nerves on the big stage, according to Glenwood Head Coach Joe Calabrese, and that was a recipe for the slow start for Glenwood.
“I think a lot of it was just nerves,” Calabrese said following the loss. “We couldn’t really settle down, and when the ball’s in the air and not on the ground, it’s hard to get control and play our game. They [Valor Christian] are obviously dangerous in the air, and made good on their first chance, and sometimes that’s just the way it goes.”
Valor struck for the first goal of the game with 13:17 left in the first half, as sophomore forward Kaleigh Kreimeyer capitalized on a Glenwood turnover by pouncing on the loose ball in the Glenwood box, firing a strike into the upper right corner of the net out of the reach of Juul, giving the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
Prior to Kreimeyer’s goal, Juul stood tall in net, shutting down a point-blank shot from Valor sophomore Ryan Winningham, before punching a corner-kick attempt high over the crossbar, keeping the game level.
Following the first goal of the game, the Demons seemed to settle in some despite trailing, as junior Levyn Thomas, sophomore Natalya Taylor, and senior Eryn Peterson carried possession into the final third of the field against the Eagles’ defense, but the trio wasn’t able to put together a scoring chance. Glenwood should have had a free kick from just outside of the box as Peterson was shoved to the ground from behind, but in a sign of things to come, no foul was called.
Late in the first half, Glenwood senior Devan McSwain set up for a free kick from 35 yards away after junior Sarah Helm drew a foul near the right sideline. But with the rain coming down, and the wind blowing towards her, McSwain wasn’t able to hit the kick how she wanted to, resulting in the ball going over the crossbar, keeping the Eagles in front heading into the half.
Fortunately for both teams, the rain let up at the half, resulting in better conditions to start the second half.
McSwain received another shot at a free kick just 45 seconds into the half, lining up from 30 yards away. The senior struck the ball well, but no Glenwood attacker ran under the ball in the box, resulting in the kick bouncing harmlessly to the Valor Christian goalkeeper, shutting down an early scoring chance for the Demons.
Ten minutes later, Winningham made it 2-0 for the Eagles. A free kick from the far sideline found its way into the box, where Winningham redirected it slightly, causing the ball to slip just out of the reach of Juul and just inside the left post, putting the Demons in their biggest deficit of the playoffs.
Just like they have all year, though, Glenwood didn’t quit, even when Peterson, who had been harassed and thrown around all game long with no calls in her favor, received a red card at the 23:06 mark, forcing the Demons to play down a player for the rest of the game.
With the odds stacked against them, Glenwood continued to scratch and claw for every inch of space on the field, leading to a remarkable second-effort goal from Taylor with 10:53 to go in the game.
On a run down the left wing following a great throughball from McSwain, Taylor attempted to cross the ball into the box to McSwain for a header, but Valor Christian senior defender Nicole Wright blocked the cross. Not giving up on the play, Taylor corralled the blocked cross and fired a tremendous strike to the far right post, beating senior goalkeeper Alexandra Daws to pull the Demons to within one goal at 2-1.
“It just validates everything as to why we’re here,” Calabrese said of the second-effort goal by Taylor. “I always say this is a special group, and it’s because of that. Going into half down 1-0, it didn’t change anything other than what we needed to do to work harder. We went down a player, and we got one back thanks to our effort.”
As momentum built in their favor, the Demons pushed hard for the equalizer, but the Eagles melted the clock by maintaining possession and pushing into the corner of the pitch, forcing Glenwood to knock the ball out of bounds, killing the clock in the process.
Glenwood had one final last-gasp chance as senior Claudia Hirons stole the ball in her own end and tried to play the ball over the top to McSwain down the middle, but the pass was knocked out of the air, leading to the final buzzer, sending the Demons packing, and the Eagles on to face No. 1 Windsor in the state championship game Wednesday, May 23.
The Demons finish with a record of 16-3 (10-2 4A Western Slope League) on the year, good for the best record in program history, and the deepest playoff run in school history since 2008, when the Glenwood football team won the state championship.
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