ERIE — In suffering to a 1-5 record through the first six contests of the girls soccer season, Holy Family played three Class 4A ranked opponents and another top-notch Class 3A team, all with one purpose in mind — to build depth along the way.
Playing those teams not only kept head coach Kathy Hogan's team afloat in the ratings percentage index used to determine playoff qualifiers, but she knew it was going to pay off when the Tri-Valley League play kicked off for her team.
That moment came Wednesday at Erie, and it worked out in the most wondrous of ways as Holy Family scored four times in the final 15 minutes of play to mold a 5-3 win over upstart EHS.
All five goals came off the feet of different players, and among those tallies was the go-ahead goal from sophomore Katie Dietrich, who swings between junior varsity and varsity.
"I just knew that we could try and utilize our depth, and playing tougher teams at the beginning of our season really helped us get prepared faster, too, I think," Hogan said after the team gained its second win but more importantly opened TVL play 1-0. "I saw tired legs out there, and we had some fresh legs on our bench that I thought could do some damage. And you know what? Two girls came in and got goals right away ... we just needed a little bit of a spark."
It was a win HFHS sophomore Nicolette Sandoval felt was long overdue. Holy Family started the season 0-4 with road losses at Peak to Peak (3A No. 4), Wheat Ridge (4A No. 5), Lewis-Palmer (4A No. 3) and Mullen (4A No. 4). Six of the Tigers' 11 goals on the season came in their lone win, a home contest against St. Mary's.
Sandoval, who had a goal and an assist, was confident that the Tigers offense was going to break through at some point. The team displayed that confidence at the outset of Wednesday's match, as they countered well and used strong midfield play to tally 12 shots to Erie's four in the first half of play. Still, Erie (5-2, 0-1) held a 2-1 lead at the break thanks to a pair of Alison McNeal goals from in close.
Erie staved off a couple of Holy Family chances early in the second half and even took a 3-1 lead in the 59th minute when a couple of long connecting passes resulted in a McKenna Harrington goal.
At that point, Holy Family went to its bench looking for a spark and some girls who could provide runs down the flanks, and Sandoval took advantage of her third good chance of the second stanza to bring it to 3-2 in the 66th minute.
Alexa Dang leg-whipped a cross into the net not even two minutes later to tie the contest, and Dietrich found a deep corner with less than eight minutes left to give Holy Family the lead for good. The action continued on Holy Family's scoring third for most of the rest of play.
"We kept that momentum going all the way down to the last minute," Sandoval said. "When our entire team was attacking, I felt like their defense just didn't know what to do and just we're able to figure us out. That's what kept us going.
"When we see so many girls score goals, it just really keeps everyone's spirits up."
For Erie, a solid start to the season has added to the high hopes of the preseason and the Tigers have scored multiple goals in every game so far for first year coach Megan Remec. Having been tested with losing a second half lead for the first time this year, Remec said the game will provide plenty of talking points.
"I think what happened in the midfield was systematic, because we struggled with their movement and combination play and in the last 15 minutes particularly we didn't react to runners," Remec said. "We didn't have that calming presence to step up tonight, but it's a learning moment and it's how you react to these mistakes. It brings things to light, and I'm hopeful it's an experience they don't want to revisit."
Holy Family 5, Erie 3
At Erie HSHoly Family (2-5, 1-0)14—5
Erie (5-2, 0-1)21—3
Goals (assists) — Erie: Alison McNeal (McKenna Harrington assist), 10th minute; Holy Family: Kody Clements (Nicolette Sandoval), 15th; Erie: A. McNeal (Harrington), 21st; Erie: Harrington (Fiona McNeal), 59th; Holy Family: Nicolette Sandoval (unassisted), 65th; Holy Family: Alexa Dang (Julianne Geneser), 67th; Holy Family: Katie Dietrich (Clements), 73rd; Holy Family: Katelyn Caviness (Clements), 80th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Holy Family: Sally Napierkowski (80-3-7); Erie: Megan Marcoux (80-5-6).