The Fairview and Boulder girls soccer rivalry is rooted in mutual respect for each other, and it shows on the field year in and year out.
But when the ball is in the air, one can count on there being no courtesy shown and that was more than evident Friday on the Fairview pitch as the Knights were able to score a huge 2-0 victory to keep their upward ascent in the Front Range League intact.
Despite heavy ball pressure and possession from the Panthers, who have the look of a team that will give opponents fits in the playoffs, early goals from Skylar Anderson and Talia Hatami stood as the game's lone scores.
It's not a stretch to say that Friday's game was the start of the most significant stretch of the season for Fairview, either. Playoffs are all but guaranteed with its current No. 16 ratings-percentage index standing, but Boulder was the first of four opponents for FHS that fall inside the top 20 RPI.
Monarch, Fossil Ridge and Rocky Mountain make up the rest of that list of opponents the Knights will see over the course of the next week — essentially beginning playoffs right here and now.
"We have looked at this stretch of our schedule for a long time, and really we're still looking at four great teams to play and hard battles to fight," Fairview coach Jeff Frykholm said after his team improved to 9-2-1 overall and 8-1-1 in the FRL. "This was a great test for us, and it really sets a tone for what to expect from now until however long we get to play. Our first half was pretty good ... but the tables turned and Boulder had more of the ball in the second. Credit to Boulder for a good second half on us."
"It's just so fun coming out here and being able to play with and against friends, but the competition is high," said Hatami, who scored in the 13th minute when Aspen Anderson's free kick was punched out of the goal box and scooted right to the junior's shooting foot. "We wanted to catch them on their heels early, and I think we were able to do that for sure."
Both teams were coming off lopsided wins, and it was Fairview that capitalized on a chance before the crowd had even settled in. Skylar Anderson put away a breakway opportunity off a feed from Adriane Mason on the game's first shot on goal.
Boulder (8-5-1, 6-4-1) responded quickly with a pair of free kick opportunities, neither catching frame, but Fairview made it 2-0 just 10 minutes later off the set piece. Boulder goalie Elise Thomason-Larssen made a good play on Aspen Anderson's lengthy attempt, but Boulder was unable to clear the ball from the middle of the field.
Skylar Anderson missed a penalty kick in the 48th minute, and that seemed to give the Panthers a breath of life. Boulder pressed forward for the remainder of the game, and the Panthers generated five corner kicks and a handful of quality free kicks toward the Fairview defense. The Panthers' Sarah Maruyama was particularly efficient in putting corner kick feeds into the challenging areas of the goal box.
But the Knights stood tall, and FHS goalie Hayden Velds was active in the midst of the chaos. She finished with four saves.
"In the second half, I don't we responded too well to their pressure but we were able to keep them out. We need to work on that still," Hatami said. "In a rivalry game, it's hard to play the prettiest soccer, so I thought overall we did good."
"Against teams as strong and talented and well-coached as Fairview ... you can't allow an early mistake," Boulder coach Carlos Real added. "You know with teams like this, they're going to be relentless. An early goal conditions the game and now you're chasing the result rather than doing what you do best. I'm glad we came back and had chances, and to get one would have been nice but it just didn't happen."
The Panthers will face Fossil Ridge on Thursday to end their regular season slate.
Fairview 2, Boulder 0
At Fairview HSBoulder (8-5-1, 6-4-1)00—0
Fairview (9-2-1, 8-1-1)20—2
Goals (assists) —Fairview: Skylar Anderson (Adriane Mason assist), 3rd minute; Fairview: Talia Hatami (Aspen Anderson), 13th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Boulder: Elise Thomason-Larssen (80-2-4); Fairview: Hayden Velds (80-0-3).