LONGMONT — Going back to at least 2009, the Niwot girls soccer team had completely dominated Skyline in the meetings between the squads.
Friday's match on the pitch at SHS had a completely different feel but, in the end, netted the same result in the win-loss column. Hannah Gray made sure of that for the Cougars in a 3-2 non-league win.
The Niwot senior captain scored twice, but it was her second-half goal — by all accounts a crossing pass that caught a necessary angle to go into the back of the net — that caught everyone by surprise and ended up being the difference in a seventh straight win over the Falcons over that eight-season span.
Niwot has fully bounced back from losses to Broomfield and Peak to Peak to start the year, and Gray has seen the difference the past two games that have brought them back to .500.
"I think we came into this season not knowing what to expect really, but we've gotten in a groove and once we got that first win, we've just been connecting better all over the field," Gray said, also adding an assist on the team's first goal of the afternoon. "We've been playing as a team and not just in sections between forward, midfield and defense."
The Cougars also beat Thompson Valley 3-2 on Wednesday, but coach Rob Johnson said he felt his team really controlled that game but for a few bounces. Against the Falcons (3-2-1), he knew there was going to be a challenge.
Indeed they were, as striker Kalen Niedling scored for Skyline just 2 minutes, 20 seconds into the game to make it 1-0. By the 7th minute the Cougars knotted it at 1 with a turn-and-look pot shot from Kailee Stobbe that was perfectly placed over SHS goalie Sariah Orocu.
The shootout-style game continued with two more goals in the next 13 minutes — Niwot garnered a 2-1 lead when Gray worked through a scramble for a rebound goal, and the Falcons countered with Niedling's second of the game to knot it at 2-2 by the 20th minute of play.
Though Niedling continued to be a thorn in the side of the NHS defense, the Falcons weren't able to strike again the rest of the way. They had three really good chances that were sniffed out by sophomore keeper Ali Colvin — two from Niedling after great runs and a third from Brie Musser after a cross into the middle of the box.
Though both teams could argue they won possession in the second half, Gray made one solid count for Niwot in the 70th minute, 15 minutes after the Cougars had a goal wiped off with an offsides call.
"I was expecting to cross and I knew that I had teammates going to that back post, so I knew it was going in regardless," Gray said.
"It really is a matter of who is going to battle to the very end when we play each other," Johnson said. "I will tell you this, last year we couldn't seem to find ways to win. This year, we're seeing that finish mentality so far."
Skyline was dealt a bigger-picture blow when junior Rachel Billeter suffered a knee injury late in the first half. It was feared to be a recurrence of an ACL injury she had dealt with before. Billeter had scored two goals on the season so far.
"(Billeter's injury) shook us for a little bit, but I really felt that they brought it out to perform for her rather than themselves after that," Skyline coach Luis Chavez said. "This is the best showing we've had in the past several years. We're getting to the point where we're realizing we are just as good or better than a lot of teams in (the Tri-Valley League) or the (Northern League). We hope to take some momentum from this performance to our conference games."
Niwot 3, Skyline 2
At Skyline HSNiwot (2-2) 2 1 — 3
Skyline (3-2-1) 2 0 — 2
Goals (assists) — Skyline: Kalen Niedling (Sabrina Bridwell assist), 3rd minute; Niwot: Kailee Stobbe (Hannah Gray), 7th; Niwot: Gray (Sarah Sypher), 18th; Skyline: Niedling (unassisted), 20th; Niwot: Gray (Sypher), 70th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Niwot: Sophie Storz (40-2-2), Ali Colvin (40-0-3); Skyline: Sariah Orocu (80-3-7).