LONGMONT -- It wasn't exactly insurmountable. But it was probably whatever qualifies for one slight step below that.
We're talking, of course, about the dreaded three-goal halftime deficit in soccer.
The Niwot Cougars found themselves in that unfavorable predicament Tuesday night at Everly-Montgomery Stadium, but the Cougars refused to gaze too deeply into those long odds. A sterling second half nearly was enough to catch visiting Rocky Mountain, but ultimately the early crater was too deep to emerge from in a 3-2 loss to the 5A Lobos.
"Our entire team, you could feel it in the second half," Cougars junior Maria Fayeulle said. "We had heart and we were determined. Even though we only scored two goals, we had chance after chance and we were close there."
Niwot coaches and players had dual perspectives after the contest. They enjoyed the comeback attempt, yes. But they weren't about to purely sweep that poor first half under the rug. It was a half, after all, that was responsible for a nonleague loss that dropped the Cougars' record to 4-2.
"In the first half, we weren't nearly as motivated as we should have been," Fayeulle said. "They were playing all around us, and when we did get the ball, we were flustered."
Fayeulle breathed life back into the Cougars eight minutes into the second half when she converted a long feed from Shannon Fischer into Niwot's first goal. At the midway point of the second half, Kylie Fischer drilled home a penalty kick and it was 3-2.
But Rocky Mountain and goalie Michelle Kennedy prevented the Cougars from notching the equalizer.
"I was really encouraged by their play in the second half," Niwot coach Jeremy Drake said. "They battled back and got it to within one, and it was just unfortunate we couldn't stick one home to tie it up. I just wish we could have seen that team in the first half."
Rocky Mountain (2-1) was busy converting many of its numerous prime opportunities in the opening half. Mackenzie Garske was completely unmarked in front of the net in the seventh minute and opened the scoring with a blast past Niwot keeper Isabel Aguayo.
Seven minutes later, the Lobos' Kait Eden scored on a breakway.
About three minutes before the half, Morgan Abbitt fielded a corner kick by Kara Boldt and converted to give Rocky Mountain the 3-0 halftime lead.
Lobos coach Ron Clark was asked whether Niwot's comeback attempt was a product of the Cougars' prowess or of his own team's second-half deficiencies.
"A combination of both," Clark said. "At halftime, we talked about hustle and spacing, and continuing to do all of the things we did right in the first half. Then we came out and did none of it."
Niwot is hoping to parlay the momentum from its commendable second half into a strong performance Friday in another non-league matchup against a 5A team.
"We know we can't have another poor first half, because it ended up losing the game for us," Fayeulle said. "But I think Friday against Standley Lake, we'll really pick it up."
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Rocky Mountain 3, Niwot 2
At Everly-Montgomery Stadium
Rocky Mountain (2-1) 3 0 -- 3
Niwot (4-2) 0 2 -- 2
Goals (assists) -- Rocky Mountain: Garske (Eden), 7th minute; Rocky Mountain: Eden (Seidel), 14th; Rocky Mountain: Abbitt (Boldt), 37th; Niwot: Fayeulle (S. Fischer), 48th; Niwot: K. Fischer (PK), 60th.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) -- Rocky Mountain: Kennedy (80-2-5). Niwot: Aguayo (80-3-6).