Pearls set postseason precedent
CARBONDALE — Things for this year’s Colorado Rocky Mountain School girls soccer team are much different than in years past. A talk with members of the team will show that.
“There never really was a precedent set for wanting to win,” CRMS senior Madi McClure said. “We’ve had some good athletes, but the priority was more about playing soccer just to have fun and for something to do.”
This season, the Pearls have found out that winning can be pretty fun, too. Thanks to some added soccer talent, a new playing philosophy and the implementation of a fourth classification in Colorado girls soccer, CRMS is playing in its first postseason game since the program became sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association in 1988, according to head coach AO Forbes.
The Pearls get to host their first postseason game, too. They earned the sixth seed in the 12-team 2A state playoff bracket following their 6-4-1 regular-season showing and will host Resurrection Christian (4-10-0) out of Loveland in a first-round matchup. Game time is scheduled for 5 p.m. today, with the winner moving in to play at third-seeded Dawson School at 4 p.m. Friday in Denver.
“People are insanely excited,” senior Isabelle Weber said. “We kept telling people at the school that we made the playoffs, and they’re like, ‘Are you serious?’”
It’s been a serious turnaround for CRMS, which prior to this year had only won a combined seven games from 2012-14. What’s more, those teams likely wouldn’t have been able to go to the playoffs even if they’d qualified since the annual school trip — a week-long outdoor excursion for the students that’s part of the regular curriculum of the private boarding school — typically conflicts with the state-playoff schedule.
“This is the first year that it’s even been possible,” Forbes said.
A lot of things made it possible, and not just the schedules matching up.
First, there’s the classification change. The Pearls dropped down into the new 24-team 2A classification, which was formed this season. So unlike last season when the top three teams in the 3A Western Slope League qualified for the state playoffs, CRMS nearly had to be one of the two best 2A teams in the 3A/2A WSL this year out of schools like Vail Mountain, Vail Christian and Rangely. The Pearls not only did that, but three of their four losses came against Class 3A teams. They also lost in overtime to Vail Mountain, which is the top seed in the 2A playoff bracket.
Then, there’s the added talent this season. Turnover on the team goes beyond graduation since the school attracts students from around the world, with some of them opting to study abroad or change study focus at any time. This year, an influx of young soccer talent, led by freshman Emily Wiley and Sophia Infante, have helped bring CRMS to another level on the soccer field.
“This year we had some new talent come in that has helped us a lot,” said McClure, who will play soccer in the fall at Division III Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. “On top of that, this is the year that the coaches really got on us and told us that we really needed to bring it.”
They sure have.
The Pearls have scored 36 goals this season, which is just two goals fewer than they combined to score in the three seasons previous to this year. That’s a far cry from when CRMS really struggled in 2013, finishing the season 2-10-0 with a pair of forfeit losses.
This season, the Pearls’ new attitude made a difference in helping them reach the playoffs and, they hope, will also help them advance in the playoffs.
“Yeah, we’re stoked that this game wasn’t supposed to happen and that we weren’t supposed to be here,” senior Ella Hartshorne said. “But we’re here to win. We don’t want this to be a one-time event for CRMS. We want to set a precedent.”
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