Opportunity knocks out Titans
Post Independent Sports Editor
PEACH VALLEY — Kent Denver High School’s girls soccer team took advantage of its early opportunity. By contrast, the Coal Ridge Titans barely had any opportunities.
An early goal by Nicole Campbell gave the Sun Devils the lead for good, and a late goal from Havana McElvaine sealed the match and a trip to the semifinal round of the Class 3A State Championships with a 2-0 victory against Coal Ridge at The Pasture.
“Any time you score first, it’s big,” Coal Ridge senior Kelsey Fauser said. “It gets you settled, and it lets you relax a little more. So for them to get that on us, it left us reeling a little bit.”
It was one of the few times that’s happened this year to the Titans (16-2-0), who were outshot 14-3 and couldn’t get past the Sun Devils’ stellar back line for a majority of the match. That defensive play, coupled with the opportunistic play on offense from Kent Denver (11-5-2), ended the Titans’ season and moved the Sun Devils into Saturday’s state semifinal at All City Stadium.
“We absolutely made a commitment to stop No. 17 (Fauser), who is a very, very good player,” Kent Denver coach Krista Sahrbeck said. “We tried to stop No. 12 (Paige Ryan) who is everywhere and very hard to stop. And our formation really helps to keep players like those down.”
Kent Denver’s 4-5-1 formation — four back-line defenders, five midfielders and one forward — kept the Titans’ scoring opportunities at a premium.
“They took away a lot of our speed,” first-year Coal Ridge coach Micah Herron said. “We tried to make some adjustments at halftime. But good teams know how to keep their foot on the gas pedal when they’re ahead.”
It was the first time the Titans had trailed in a match since they lost 1-0 to Aspen on March 19. Since then, Coal Ridge had won 14 consecutive matches to reach the Great Eight round of the tournament for the first time since 2009.
Campbell and McElvaine, however, made sure the Titans wouldn’t go any further.
After the Sun Devils fended off a modest Coal Ridge press 15 minutes in, McElvaine lofted a corner kick in front of the net to Campbell. Her header goal in the 19th minute put the Sun Devils ahead to stay.
That proved critical with a steady wind blowing toward the south end of the field. When the teams switched sides at halftime with Kent Denver ahead 1-0, the Sun Devils took a more aggressive approach on goal with the wind at their backs and wouldn’t hesitate to take a long-distance shot.
“I don’t know if words could describe how huge that first goal was,” Sahrbeck said. “You saw how much pressure they were putting on us. To me, that was a turning point.”
The Titans tried to make a final push in the waning minutes, but it went the other way.
An upfield pass to Fauser turned into a 50-50 ball with Campbell, and the pair collided near midfield. Fauser was given a yellow card on the play and, on the ensuing free kick, McElvaine lofted a shot on goal over Brooke Esgar’s head from midfield to essentially seal the match in the 79th minute.
“To be in the Great Eight is awesome because we haven’t been here since my freshman year,” Fauser said. “And to have a league championship under our belt, it’s a great thing. And all of our underclassmen are going to come up with that. Hopefully, they can go farther than we did.”
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