BOULDER — The playoff matchups between seeds 16 and 17 are supposed to be the most compelling of any bracket, with everything pointing toward a possible slugfest.
In this year's first round of the Class 5A girls soccer playoffs, Fairview and Rock Canyon did not disappoint in that regard. It was physical out on the Fairview pitch — all-out brutal at times — and because of that there were frantic moments for both teams with action going end-to-end. That, and 80 minutes of play was not enough to decide the outcome.
But after sluggish starts to the game, the start of the second half and the start of the first overtime, the Knights were able to finally find a comfortable reset in the second extra session, ousting the Jaguars from the postseason with a 3-2 victory capped by Skylar Anderson's goal in the 96th minute of play.
Anderson found some space to drill a shot from just outside the 18-yard box and past reserve goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell just 42 seconds after the teams had stepped back on the field, and Fairview advanced to the second round where they will face top-seeded Cherry Creek on Friday.
"I think the physicality of the game got to us a little bit, and I think we can learn just to play our game because it's not going to get any easier," said Anderson, who factored into all three goals for the Knights (12-4). "We need to stay with how we play and what we do and not let things get into our head. This wasn't an easy one."
Rock Canyon, out of the tough Continental League, gave Fairview all it could handle in finishing 9-7. After Tea Smith converted a penalty kick goal in the 26th minute that stood as the only goal of the first half, the Jaguars came out strong from the halftime break and used a somewhat fluky score from Annie Thulin in the 43rd minute to fuel their fire.
The Jaguars took a 2-1 lead a little more than nine minutes later when Claire Steffe, their top scorer, made a solid run at the goal through the middle of Fairview's defense and made her effort count on the shot to the corner.
But the Jaguars couldn't put Fairview away. The Knights, a team that has run up corner kick opportunities all year long, had five of them in the second half and finally made good on one at the perfect time. In the 74th minute, after an Anderson cross was played out but still possessed by FHS, the junior had a second look at an over-the-top centering feed, and Sarina Russ kicked it in to give her team some life.
"We had so many corners again, and finally we got one on a set piece after so many," added Fairview head coach Jeff Frykholm. "Those corners come as a result of a lot of pressure. Nine corners, that's a sign that you're really sitting on a team and I was thankful we were able to put one away there."
Rock Canyon possessed for most of the first overtime, but the Knights were able to ride out the storm and force another break. Anderson put an end to things after getting a pass in space from her sister, Aspen.
"The first overtime definitely wasn't as we though it would be, but we stuck together and got through it," Skylar Anderson said, her drawn foul in the box also parlaying into Tea Smith's early tally. "We just leaned on each other and then came out in the second overtime with all we could to finish it fast."
Added Frykholm: "We're alive for another day, and we're grateful for that."
Hayden Velds had four saves in the contest for the Knights, including two in the first overtime.
Fairview 3, Rock Canyon 2
At Fairview HSRock Canyon (9-7)0200—2
Goals (assists) —Fairview: Tea Smith (unassisted — penalty kick), 26th minute; Rock Canyon: Annie Thulin (unassisted), 43rd minute; Rock Canyon: Claire Steffe (unassisted), 52nd; Fairview: Sarina Russ (Skylar Anderson assist), 74th; Fairview: S. Anderson (Aspen Anderson), 96th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Rock Canyon: Camryn Yacks (87-2-4), Kenna Caldwell (9-1-0); Fairview: Hayden Velds (96-2-4).