BROOMFIELD — Kika Napierkowski sticks out on the Holy Family roster as one of only two seniors on the girls soccer team. On the field, though, the blend of talent is such that the Tigers appear as grizzled veterans — even with a handful of freshmen starters.
Youth has served Holy Family well this season as they have reached unprecedented heights with a No. 3 seed in the Class 4A playoffs, and the Tigers showed their prowess on Wednesday night with a convincing 5-1 victory over No. 30 Elizabeth in the opener.
Three workmanlike goals in the first half paved the way for Holy Family to advance and host a second-round game on Saturday against either Green Mountain or Pueblo County. Napierkowski had two of those early goals as the Tigers dominated the shot count and gave themselves good odds to finish a couple.
"It's amazing that (the freshmen) are so physical on the field, and a lot of time it is hard to find girls that young to be like that," Napierkowski said after HFHS improved to 10-4-1 on the season. "It's nice to have that, and I really feel this is the best team that we've had since I've been here. We kept our heads on our shoulders (Wednesday), so we were good."
"There might be a lot of pressure there because they haven't been in that position before and we have new coaches and a young team, but the girls have been responding all season long," added head coach Michelle Griego-Giron, whose staff donned vivid purple suits to complement the personality of the team on the pitch. "Hopefully they continue to do so. We got one (playoff game) under our belt now."
Holy Family's speed on the low end of the field, particularly Nicolette Sandoval, was unmatched and it allowed for plenty of opportunities to cross the ball into a busy goal box.
Each of Holy Family's first three goals came about in this way — with Elizabeth failing to find the ball for a clear, Napierkowski was able to score in the 11th and 36th minutes while Bailey Sloan finished a second chance in the 22nd minute.
Napierkowski's second goal followed a Cardinals goal from Summer Hatch in the 33rd minute. Elizabeth had some creative forwards that were able to get a handful of runs in, but Hatch made it 2-1 when the Cardinals were able to win possession on a goal kick.
Shots on goal were 15-4 in favor of Holy Family, and the Tigers were finally able to add to their lead on more of a highlight-reel play in the 69th minute. Jaelen Giron top-shelfed a shot from about 15 yards after an unselfish feed from Sandoval up the middle of the field. Sandoval would be rewarded for that with a penalty kick conversion a few seconds later, accounting for the final score.
"I think we did a super good job of possessing which is something we've been working on a lot, and then also just taking shots when we had them," Napierkowski said. "Our energy was helpful, and we have a lot of good subs that are just as good as the starters on our team."
Holy Family 5, Elizabeth 1
At Holy Family HSElizabeth (11-5) 1 0 — 1
Holy Family (10-4-1) 3 2 — 5
Goals (assists) — Holy Family: Kika Napierkowski (Jules Geneser assist), 11th minute; Holy Family: Bailey Sloan (unassisted), 22nd; Elizabeth: Summer Hatch (unassisted), 33rd; Holy Family: Kika Napierkowski (unassisted), 36th; Holy Family: Jaelen Giron (Nicolette Sandoval), 69th; Holy Family: Sandoval (penalty kick), 70th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Elizabeth: Erika Riedmuller (80-5-10); Holy Family: Sally Napierkowski (80-1-3).