Coach Pat Monacelli and his Silver Creek soccer players insist they were confident all along that they'd prevail on Wednesday, but they know as well as anyone that the longer there's just two goose eggs on the scoreboard, the more of a chance things might be decided by the soccer gods.
Which isn't always a good thing if you're the favorite in a playoff game — which the Raptors were on Wednesday.
But after Ponderosa, the 24th seed in the 32-team 4A state bracket, got the best of the action in a scoreless first 56 minutes, ninth-seeded Silver Creek dominated the action for a crucial three-minute stretch, scoring both goals in a 2-0 home victory.
It was certainly a relief for the Raptors after they exited in the first round last year despite being seeded above their opponent. Overall, Silver Creek had lost in the opening round three times from 2011-15.
"Anytime it goes scoreless for 55 or 60 minutes, you know that one mistake could cost you the game," said Monacelli, whose team is 7-0-1 at home this year. "We have to be patient enough not to make that mistake and let the game come to us. There's always the potential, the later the thing goes, for it not to go your way. But we did what we needed to do. We got the win we needed."
The victory, the Raptors' sixth straight, improved their record to 11-4-1 after they started the season 1-3-1. The winner of the last two 4A Northern League titles will face a Sweet 16 matchup Saturday at eighth-seeded Steamboat Springs, which defeated Longmont 6-1 Wednesday evening.
It will be just the second round-of-16 playoff game since 2010 for Silver Creek, which claimed the 4A state title in 2008.
Against Ponderosa, senior playmakers Bayly Herman and Katy Foster did their thing by notching goals for the Raptors.
In the 57th minute, Herman took a pass from Lexi Dageenakis, maneuvered through the PHS back line, faked out a defender, then rolled a shot into the left side of the net.
And with that, where Silver Creek had appeared confounded at times in the first two-thirds of the game, it had the Mustangs on their heels for the next few minutes. The Raptors took advantage by scoring in the 60th minute on a header by Foster off a corner kick by Emily Feller. Foster later hurt her right calf in a non-contact play, but Monacelli said he expects her to be ready for Saturday's game.
"We were forcing the ball a lot" in the first half and beyond, said Herman, who scored her team-leading 11th goal of the season. "That caused us to play a little bit of kick-ball, which is what they were doing. We were playing their game instead of our game.
"The first half was really difficult. Then we clicked and found each other and we put it all together."
Meanwhile, the defense and sophomore keeper Kaeyla Noble notched the Raptors' 10th shutout of the season. Over its current six-game win streak, Silver Creek has outscored its opponents 28-1.
"I definitely think when it comes to our team, we've built up the confidence in each other, and I'm definitely 100 percent behind my team," Noble said. "I have full confidence if we do go 50 minutes without a goal that we'll keep playing hard and keep going at it like we want it. This was definitely an amazing outcome for our team."
Ponderosa lost nine of its last 11 games and finished 5-10-1, but Monacelli said that was very deceiving considering how many 2016 5A playoff teams the Mustangs faced.
"We knew they were going to be an exceptionally tough team," the SC coach said. "Twenty-fourth seed for them is kind of an anomaly. We knew this was a dog fight before we stepped on the field.
"But I knew if we could hang together and weather some rough spots early on, eventually we would break through. And when we were finally able to get it done, we produced two really beautiful goals."
Silver Creek 2, Ponderosa 0
At Silver Creek High SchoolPonderosa (5-10-1) 0 0 — 0
Silver Creek (11-4-1) 0 2 — 2
Goals (assists) — Silver Creek: Bayly Herman (Lexi Dageenakis), 57th minute; Katy Foster (Emily Feller), 60th minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Ponderosa: Raven Bernier 80-2-3; Silver Creek: Kaeyla Noble 80-0-5.