DENVER — Colorado Academy managed only four shots on goal, but the first one was perfectly played and proved enough to give the Mustangs a 1-0 victory over Peak to Peak in the Class 3A quarterfinals on Friday afternoon.
The loss eliminates Peak to Peak, ending the Pumas' season with a 9-9 mark. Colorado Academy advances to the semifinal, where the Mustangs will face Salida on Wednesday.
Just three minutes into the match, Colorado Academy senior Alex Clinkscales placed a corner kick in just the right spot for a leaping Tyler Kelly to head it just inside the far post for the game's only goal on the first shot of the contest.
"How many times do you find that play just outside the back post?" said Peak to Peak coach Joe Swanson with both wonder and admiration in his voice. "It was right off his head. He had perfect timing on the jump. It was just one of those things. I was impressed. It was an excellent goal. It's nothing to be ashamed of when you lose on a goal like that."
Kelly, a senior, moved up from the back line for the set piece, a move that Colorado Academy has used frequently this season.
"I think that's been our MO. We come out and try to pressure high, especially the first 10 minutes, and we try to sneak one in. It worked out well," CA coach Gabe Bernstein said. "He's a big guy. He's a lacrosse player, as well. He's athletic, and he's a good captain. He's a leader out there, and he just keeps coming through in clutch moments."
After relying on set pieces to knock off Pagosa Springs and Roaring Fork in the tournament's first two rounds, Peak to Peak struggled on corners and free kicks, due in large part to Kelly, who towered over every other player on the field.
Kelly's presence in the box was enough to force Peak to Peak to change strategy at halftime.
"Tyler Kelly is fantastic. He just took all (of our set pieces) away from us," Swanson said. "He's got the six-four frame back there. It was hard to get it through. We were trying to find a way to play around him in the second half instead of through him."
The strategy gave Peak to Peak chances in the second half, when the Pumas outshot the Mustangs 5-1. However, the equalizer never came.
"You try to jostle things around and try to find something that will work," Swanson continued. "We battled, but what CA does is hold their positions on the field really well. They hold their positions so well on the back line that it's hard to get penetration in there. I felt like we had the majority of possession in the second half. We just couldn't find a goal."
With only three seniors on the squad, including Swanson's son William who played all four seasons with the Pumas, Peak to Peak looks to return the majority of its team next season, giving its coach optimism.
"This team is really young," Joe Swanson said. "You kind of expect some big things next year, as well as they did this year."
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Colorado Academy 1, Peak to Peak 0
At Colorado Academy
Peak to Peak (9-9) 0 0 — 0
Colorado Academy (14-4) 1 0 — 1
Goals (assists) — Colorado Academy: Tyler Kelly (Alex Clinkscales), 4th minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Peak to Peak: Nate Fangman (80-1-3); Colorado Academy: Noah Henry (80-0-8).