Titans off and running
Post Independent Sports Editor
PEACH VALLEY — Coal Ridge High School’s girls soccer team established the tempo early on against Middle Park on Friday.
And when the Titans earned that momentum, they ran with it. Literally.
Kelsey Fauser scored a pair of goals and Amanda Wenzel added another, as the third-seeded Titans rolled to a 3-0 win over the 30th-seeded Panthers in the first round of the Class 3A State Championships at The Pasture.
“We knew we were going to win based on our conditioning,” said Wenzel, whose unassisted goal off a corner kick gave Coal Ridge a 2-0 edge. “We want to be the team that can go the extra 30 minutes that others can’t.”
The Titans (15-1-0) made the Panthers play catchup throughout the match. Coal Ridge outshot Middle Park 22-6, with only two of the Panthers’ shots coming on goal. And while Middle Park played long-ball offense to try to get in position to score, the Titans’ ball-control philosophy helped limit the Panthers’ scoring chances.
And thanks to that, Coal Ridge advanced to today’s second-round matchup against Faith Christian, a 3-0 winner over Telluride later in the day. Game time is scheduled for 11 a.m., with the winner moving into next Wednesday’s 3A quarterfinals.
“We just have to keep playing harder,” Fauser said. “We’re going to keep facing harder teams as we keep moving on, so we have to just keep our heads level.”
Middle Park (8-5-2) nearly knotted the score at 1-all halfway through the first half when goalkeeper Brooke Esgar made a diving save on a shot from 20 yards away by Gabrielle Blahnik. That turned out to be the most significant scoring opportunity for the Panthers, who had lost three starters due to injuries at the tail end of the regular season.
“They’re a class act, and I appreciate playing a good game against a good team,” Middle Park coach Molly Jordan said. “Quite honestly, I don’t believe they’re a true No. 3 seed. But I think that’s enabled them to hopefully have some success in the playoffs.”
Fauser opened the scoring in the 12th minute, as a shot by Paige Ryan that deflected off Middle Park goalie Erin O’Connor was punched into the net by Fauser to give the Titans the lead for good. Blahnik’s shot soon followed, but the Panthers couldn’t get another shot off before halftime.
Wenzel’s score came eight minutes into the second half, as her corner kick from the right side deflected off of O’Connor’s gloves and into the net for a 2-0 Coal Ridge lead. And in the 61st minute, Wenzel’s upfield kick from midfield landed on the fly in front of Fauser, who beat her defender and kicked the ball into the net for the Titans’ third and final goal.
“Amanda just looked up to me and we made eye contact, and I knew what was going on right there,” Fauser said. “I just took off, and I got her beat.”
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