The last time Boulder boys soccer lost a home playoff game, according to coach Hardy Kalisher, was in 2011 to Grandview.

So when the Wolves, a regular challenger in Class 5A, invaded Recht Field on a pleasant Saturday evening for early November, the Panthers were ready. They stood up to every Wolves' challenge, took advantage of a couple of scoring opportunities and earned a 2-0 decision in the quarterfinals.

Boulder advanced to Wednesday's semifinals at Legacy Stadium in Aurora and will meet Fossil Ridge, the 30th seed of 32 in the field that downed No. 6 Arapahoe 4-3. The Panthers beat the SaberCats 4-1 on Oct. 10 in the demanding Front Range League that has dominated the playoffs.

Ranked No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps, yet somehow seeded No. 2 in the 5A bracket under the new, controversial and not-well-received RPI system, Boulder, now 18-0, did what it had to do to surpass Grandview's bid.

"Yes, (the Wolves) are very strong, there's tradition in their soccer," Kalisher said. "We knew they would be tough and effective, and make a run at us and not back down. We knew they would be one of the stronger teams we've seen this year.

"We stuck with what we know and against an athletic team like that we absorbed that pressure and we were able to have a counterattack. We've been able to play good teams all year and get good results, which is to play hard for each other."


That they did. Grandview, which ended 13-3-2, threw waves of pressure at the Panthers. However, sophomore keeper Djibril Doumbia flawlessly handled a half-dozen testing chances and sophomore attack midfielder Omar Castruita was at the front of the offense.

First, Castruita opened the scoring with a power surge from the right side, a crisp goal that found the back of the net through traffic in the 19th minute. Then he basically ended the match in the 71st minute by beating Wolves goalie Eddie St. Martin to a ball at the end line to the left of the goal and passed to an all-alone Blaise Werner, who could have willed it telepathically into the open goal.

"In the first round of the playoffs, I was getting frustrated and I couldn't score," Castruita said. "So (a junior-varsity coach) said to matter in the next round and that's what I've tried to do.

"On the first goal, I got a good ball, so I knew I had to put it back in the back of the net. On that second goal, I knew (St. Martin) didn't know what to do, so I got the ball to Blaise."

Kalisher, who has been in command of the Panthers program since 2006, won a title in 2012, finished runner-up in 2014 and has it headed to a sixth semifinals round, said he's pleased with his guys' performances. They've been handling the attention well, have developed a strong following and can't wait until the next round. Overall, they own an aggregate 71-11 scoring advantage.

Being the veteran coach he is, the simple approach with a talented group seems best. And it has been working.

"Don't look back and trust what got you here," he said.


At Recht Field

Grandview 0 0 — 0
Boulder 1 1 — 2

Goals — Boulder: Castruita, 19th minute; Werner, 71st minute.