Pirates sink Titans’ stellar season
COLORADO SPRINGS — Amanda Wenzel had trouble controlling her emotions as the lights dimmed on the soccer field at the Grace Center for Athletics on Wednesday night.
“This season has been amazing, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” the Coal Ridge High School senior said through tears after the Titans’ 4-1 loss to St. Mary’s in the Class 3A quarterfinals. “I just hope that all the of future Titans can come back and get further than we did.”
Coal Ridge, playing in the state quarterfinals for the second consecutive season, wasn’t able to catch up after the third-seeded Pirates (15-1-1) took a two-goal lead late in the first half. Being on the short end of the two-goal deficit was something that the Titans hadn’t faced before Wednesday, and the girls from the private Catholic school made sure Coal Ridge couldn’t rally.
“We hadn’t gotten down two goals like that all season, especially that quick,” Coal Ridge coach Micah Herron said. “I was hoping the girls wouldn’t react, but respond, and they did.”
The Pirates, however, prevented the Titans from coming back any more than they did. It paved the way to the state semifinals for St. Mary’s, which takes place at All-City Stadium in Denver at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. With the loss, Coal Ridge finished the season with a 16-2-0 record.
Michelle Moure scored a pair of goals for St. Mary’s, with her score on a breakaway with 9.6 seconds remaining in the game putting an exclamation point on the Pirates’ victory. Also scoring for the Pirates were Maleia Lark in the 33rd minute and Jordan Curley in the 39th minute, with Curley’s goal taking away all of the momentum the Titans had regained after pulling within 2-1.
“We told the girls after she scored that we were in a 2-1 game in the final minutes if she hadn’t scored that,” St. Mary’s coach Gregg Braha said. “We’re lucky that we weren’t just sweating bullets there at he end.”
Coal Ridge, however, was the team that had the early opportunities, with St. Mary’s goalkeeper Tess Thomas coming away with a pair of stellar saves in net off shots from Jenny Call and Paige Ryan. The Pirates didn’t get a shot on goal until the 31st minute, but they took advantage of their big chance a minute later.
The Pirates’ first corner kick of the game deflected around in front of the Coal Ridge goal to Moure, who punched the ball past Coal Ridge goalie Broke Esgar for a 1-0 St. Mary’s lead. A minute later, Kylie Cleary’s centering pass on a break found Lark streaking toward the goal, and the junior punched it in the net to quickly give the Pirates a two-goal cushion.
Coal Ridge responded in turn, though, and Ryan found a seam from the right side of the box and nudged the ball past Thomas to pull the Titans within 2-1.
That’s when the decisive goal came, as Curley’s intended crossing pass went into the upper-righthand corner of the net. It gave the Pirates a 3-1 lead just before halftime.
“I guess that’s what you would call, in soccer terms, unlucky,” Herron said.
St. Mary’s kept the Titans away from the net the rest of the way, and Coal Ridge’s comeback was stalled when Ryan went down with an ankle injury with 19 minutes remaining. She returned for the final five minutes, but Coal Ridge only got four long-distance shots on goal.
The Titans still came away with a second consecutive 3A Western Slope League title, however, and drew praises for their play from the opponent that defeated them.
“Against a quality opponent, we played well,” Braha said. “Against the top teams in our league, they’d match up very well. Against the top teams in the state? Well, you can obviously see why they were in the top eight.”
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The 50th Carbondale Mountain Fair last weekend included the 42nd running of the Mt. Sopris Runoff 14-miler and its companion 4-Mile Fair Run foot races after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic.