COMMERCE CITY — Hold your head up high Rachel Willette, because if it wasn't for you, your team wouldn't have had the chance they did.
The Peak to Peak sophomore goalie stood on her head in the final 70 minutes of the Class 3A title match against The Academy, making one crucial save after another to propel her weary-legged team to a penalty shoot-out to decide matters at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
After six rounds was not enough to decide things, the No. 6-seeded Wildcats ended it in the seventh on Hannah Paschke's shot that was in the hands of Willette, who despite moving to her right was able to get both hand on the shot to her left, only to not fully grasp it and have it drop over the line.
The Wildcats (18-1) won their first girls soccer title 4-3 in penalties.
"I don't know what else you say, because it was a fabulous game and Alex Loera did absolutely everything for them and what a phenomenal talent she is," said Peak to Peak coach Joe Swanson, whose team finished 15-3-1. "We had our chances in the first half and as much as they outplayed us in the second, we had four or five in the first that we just couldn't get to go."
Alayna Mann, who would later exit the match due to injury and that proved to be crucial, had the best look of the best chance in the opening 40 minutes, only to have it sail wide.
The Pumas, who failed to score against The Academy during a 3-0 regular season setback last month, broke the scoreless draw early in the second half. Emma Shepherd's blast from well over 35 yards beat a back-pedaling Kristine Honomichl.
After the goal, it appeared the Pumas' legs got a little weary from chasing the Wildcats around the gigantic pitch at Dick's
"When we lost Alayna Mann is shortened our bench a little bit more and to find that little bit of relief we needed was just getting hard," Swanson said. "The big field started to get to us a little bit."
Loera, bound for Division I Santa Clara, equalized for the Wildcats in the 56th minute by beating four defenders and rifling a shot past Willette.
Remember how Swanson said she did everything for her team? After the 30 minutes of scoreless overtime play, Loera took the goalie gear and settled in between the pipes for the shoot-out.
After she made her first round kick to put her team up 1-0, Loera gave up on to Ashley Buck and then saved Rebecca Thompson's attempt.
Willette was up to the task too, making saves in the second round against Kaylee Gabel and in the sixth against Jasmine Daily to keep the match going after Heidi Buchtel shot high in the Pumas sixth.
In the seventh, Jules Walther was the third Peak to Peak shooter to go high, setting the stage for Paschke.
"We wouldn't have been here without here and she almost made that last one fling away from it," Swanson said. "She's fine and she'll be great. We've had these two keeper all year long rotating goals and if they were at their own schools they would have their own net, there is no doubt about it in my mind. She'll be fine."
THE ACADEMY 1 (4), PEAK TO PEAK 1 (3)
At Dick's Sporting Goods ParkThe Academy (18-1)0100—1 (3)Peak to Peak (15-3-1)0100—1 (4)
Goals (assists) — Peak to Peak: Emma Shepherd (unassisted), 43rd minute; The Academy: Alex Loera (unassisted), 56th.
Shoot-out goals — Peak to Peak: Ashley Buck, Shepherd, Emily Dee; The Academy: Alex Loera, Mandy Stricker, Alex Zielinski, Hannah Paschke.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — The Academy: Kristine Honomichl (110-1-3), Loera (0-0-1); Peak to Peak: Kinzie Short (40-0-5), Rachel Willette (70-1-7).