BOULDER -- Despite already having earned his place as the top playmaker on the Boulder boys soccer team, Mason Douillard was challenged this week by Panthers head coach Hardy Kalisher.
With the playoffs beginning and Boulder entering the postseason fray as one of the state's hottest teams, Kalisher wanted to make sure Douillard was ready to take his game up a notch against the quality opponents hungry for an early-round upset of the Panthers. Consider it a message well-received.
Douillard contributed two goals and two assists as Boulder dominated Montbello in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament, recording a 5-1 victory Wednesday at Recht Field. The sixth-seeded Panthers (10-6) have won eight of their past nine games and will host 11th-seeded Chatfield in the second round on Monday.
"We've asked Mason to step up for the big games and the big opponents. And he did," Kalisher said. "We had two really good training sessions this week, and he was really firing in training. The challenge we asked of Mason was, 'Could you bring your athleticism against a big opponent?' He did. We'll need that all the way through the playoffs."
Douillard helped the Panthers take the lead with 12 minutes, 34 seconds left in the first half, driving a corner kick through the penalty area and leaving it in position for Kevin Van Lieshout to belt home the first goal of the match on a header.
Montbello (9-5-2) took advantage of a Boulder penalty to pull even on a penalty kick a little more than 2 minutes later, but Douillard's first goal of the night, off a long charge down the right wing, gave the Panthers a 2-1 advantage at the break.
"I thought that was a critical goal to keep the momentum going," Douillard said. "It was critical to keep our heads up after that (Montbello) goal. We lost the first playoff game last year, and I was not about to lose the first one again."
With the weather conditions continuing to worsen, Douillard and the rest of the Panthers made certain to put the game out of reach quickly after halftime. Douillard found junior Matteo Wilczak for a goal early in the second half, and he completed his personal highlight reel with a goal in the 59th minute. Douillard increased his team-leading assist total to 10 while matching his goal total from the entire regular season.
After beginning the season 2-5 while battling through a rugged opening slate -- one that included both participants in last year's Class 5A final (Heritage and Denver East) in addition to Cherry Creek, Arvada West, and defending Class 4A state champ Mullen -- the Panthers have the look of a team that is peaking at the right time.
"The boys never lost their camaraderie and their support and their energy," Kalisher said. "The biggest strength of this team is that they have incredible team spirit. It's unparalleled. They never dropped their heads early on this season, and then they started clicking. We won the league, and that was something I don't think anyone expected us to do.
"We're healthy and everybody is clicking. You want to have it all sorted out and have everyone peaking at the same time. The challenge now is keeping it going."
Follow Pat Rooney on Twitter: @prooney07
Boulder 5, Montbello 1
At Boulder H.S.
Montbello (9-5-2) 1 0 -- 1
Boulder (10-6-0) 2 3 -- 5
Goals (assists) -- Montbello: Ernesto Garcia (PK), 30th minute. Boulder: Kevin Van Lieshout (Mason Douillard), 28th minute; Douillard (Javier Castruita), 34th minute; Matteo Wilczak (Douillard), 48th minute; Douillard, 59th minute; Seth Rose (J. Castruita).
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) -- Montbello: Calet Serna (80-5-5); Boulder: Huettel (80-1-2).