Taylor’s 78th-minute strike sends Demons to state semis
For the first time in program history, the Glenwood Springs Demons’ girls soccer team clinched a spot in the 4A Colorado High School Activities Association’s state playoff semifinals, thanks to a thrilling 3-2 win Wednesday evening at Holy Family High School in Broomfield.
Sophomore Natalya Taylor banged home a header off of a corner kick from junior Sarah Helm with 2:02 left in the game, giving the Demons the 3-2 win to become the first Glenwood athletic program at the varsity level to advance as far as the semifinals since the 2008 football team won the state championship.
“I just love this group of girls that we play with,” senior midfielder Emma Harbor said following the win over the Tigers. “It’s an amazing group of girls, a great coaching staff, and we’ve just worked so hard; we deserve this.”
When this group of Demon girls looks back on the 2018 season many years down the road, they’ll remember how relentless and resilient they were.
Despite coming out flying early in the game Wednesday evening, taking an early 1-0 lead off of a header from Helm in the box off of a rebound of senior Devan McSwain’s free kick, the Demons found themselves tied 1-1 at the half as the Tigers scored late in the first half off of a corner of their own.
Thanks to the late goal in the first half, the Tigers found their footing offensively and came out roaring in the second half, applying heavy pressure on Glenwood’s side of the field.
Glenwood junior goalkeeper Hannah Juul came up with one of the best saves of the season early in the first half, making a diving stop to her right on Holy Family junior Nicolette Sandoval, keeping the game locked up at 1-all.
McSwain pitched in on the defensive effort, as well, following up Juul’s save by making a terrific play in the box on Sandoval at the end of a breakaway, clearing the ball away before Sandoval could fire off a shot.
But the Demons’ back line couldn’t hold forever under the onslaught, as sophomore defender Kaitlin Rentmeester tapped home a loose ball in the box at the 15:12 mark of the second half, giving the Tigers their first lead of the game.
With their backs against the wall on the road, and needing a quick goal to even things up once again, the Demons did what they’ve done all season: respond quickly.
Just two minutes after Holy Family took a 2-1 lead, Helm tied the game at 2-2 with her second strike of the game — this one from 25 yards out that was just under the crossbar, making for a difficult shot to handle for Holy Family’s goalkeeper.
“This is just such a special group,” Glenwood Head Coach Joe Calabrese said. “I’ve never been around a group of girls that not only never give up, but press and fight harder. They’re a resilient group; nothing is going to slow them down.”
Tied at 2-2, the Demons took the initiative to turn their game up a notch, flipping the field on Holy Family, as freshman Tatum Lilly, freshman Reese Goluba and Taylor found themselves winning every loose-ball battle and allowing the Demons to mount attacks on the Tigers’ goal.
Earning a corner kick after a great run down the left wing by Lilly, the Demons capitalized, as Taylor skied for the header at the back post off of the corner from Helm, drilling home the game-winning goal to punch the Demons’ ticket to Saturday’s semifinals at Legacy Stadium in Aurora.
“I couldn’t believe it [the goal],” Taylor said following the win. “I wasn’t expecting it, and I’ve never scored a header; I usually don’t take headers. I was so surprised, I honestly didn’t think it was going to go in.”
The Demons will take on the Valor Christian Eagles on Saturday at Legacy Stadium. The time has yet to be determined.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.