BROOMFIELD — The whole season was supposed to lead up to this.
Holy Family's daunting non-league schedule that saw the Tigers take their lumps early on, was done so in part to have them battle tested when the playoffs rolled around.
The 14th-seeded Tigers were in a good spot coming in, having won four of their final six matches, but couldn't put it together when they needed it most on Wednesday night in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs against Littleton at Mike Gabriel Stadium.
Nineteenth-seeded Littleton scored four times in the second half and broke open a tight match to win 5-1 and advance to the second round. The Lions will travel to Monument to take on Lewis-Palmer on Saturday.
Holy Family finishes its season 7-9.
"In the first half we were ready and we came out and we were definitely on the edge," Holy Family coach Kathy Hogan said. "The second half got going and that own goal just sent us downwards and we just couldn't swing back from it. They got the third and the confidence just went away."
It couldn't have been a better start for the Tigers, who opened the scoring in the eighth minute. Lindsey Mills' well placed looping shot to Lily Jensen's far post dropped in perfectly over the goalies head and softly kissed the back of the net.
Holy Family, much like it has been prone to do in years past, seemed content to sit back and absorb Littleton's pressure — allowing their stout defense to put the clamps on the Lions' forwards — and counter when the time came.
"We needed to go forward more and we just weren't taking those half chances," Hogan said. "We needed to take more shots and a little more time trying to get those shots off, and we just didn't do it."
Littleton would score equalize the match in the 29th minute on a beautiful corner. Anna Newby's ball to the far post was on point and nodded in by their leading scorer Sarah Gray past Sally Napierkowski.
Holy Family's Nicolette Sandoval nearly put the Tigers back up in the 46th, but her shot, that beat Jensen, banged off the outside of the woodwork and away.
The eventual game winner for Littleton came soon after. What appeared to be a harmless cross off the foot of Newby into the box was mis-hit on the clearing attempt by Christina Helgeson and into the top of the Tigers net.
It was a painful pill to swallow for Helgeson, who had tremendously marked Gray for the entire match, not allowing her much space.
"It's not her fault," Hogan said. "It shouldn't have gotten tot he corner and the person outside shouldn't have let the cross off; a lot of people are involved and its just a mis-hit, that's one of the things about being a defender."
Littleton's Jasmyn Thompson-Harvey would put the nail in the Tigers coffin in the 71st minute with her second goal of the season. Sarah Payson and Newby would add garbage time goals for the Lions in the closing moments.
"People are good when they get to the playoffs, you're the last 32 in the state. You don't take anybody lightly, it doesn't matter what your record is," said longtime Littleton coach Terry Banfield, who's been roving the sidelines for 22 years for the Lions. "(Holy Family is) a good team and we weren't surprised and we knew we were going to have to work hard."
LITTLETON 5, HOLY FAMILY 1
At Holy FamilyLittleton (8-8)14—5
Holy Family (7-9)10—1
Goals (assists) — Holy Family: Lindsey Mills (unassisted), 8th minute; Littleton: Sarah Gray (Anna Newby), 29th; Own goal (Christina Helgeson), 54th; Jasmyn Thompson-Harvey (unassisted), 71st; Sarah Payson (unassisted), 73rd; Newby (Gray), 76th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Littleton: Lily Jensen (80-1-2); Holy Family: Sally Napierkowski (80-5-8).