AURORA — Silver Creek's best season in a decade, and it's hopes of reaching next week's Class 4A state championship game, was down to it's final minute of life Saturday afternoon at Legacy Stadium.
But the Raptors weren't about to go down without a fight.
Trailing top-seeded Windsor 2-1 with under 60 seconds to play, Silver Creek's Kate Eggen corralled the ball in the center of the pitch about 35 yards out from the Wizards goal and unleashed a rocket that appeared to be destined to sneak in just under the top crossbar.
But at the last possible second, Windsor keeper Michaela Moran was able to punch the ball up and off the crossbar, causing it to go bouncing down a hair in front of the goal line before being scooped up for the game-winning save.
Even though it was in a futile effort, that last moment exemplified what fifth-seeded Silver Creek was all about this year. One season removed from missing the playoffs entirely, the Raptors (16-1-2) were mere minutes, and inches, away from reaching the state title game for the first time since winning it all in 2008.
"These girls killed themselves. They were amazing, absolutely amazing," Silver Creek coach Rob Johnson said. "These girls have played out of their minds. I couldn't be more impressed."
It was that fight that allowed the Raptors to even be in a position to possibly force overtime on a cold, wet and dreary afternoon during Saturday's semifinals. With a firm wind at it's back during the first half, Windsor (18-0-1) struck quickly, converting on a penalty kick in the sixth minute of play to take a 1-0 lead.
With Silver Creek reeling a bit from the early score, the Wizards would control play for the remainder of the half, exerting a ton of pressure on the Raptors back line. Windsor earned six corner kicks and had four shots on goal in the first 40 minutes, but stellar play by Silver Creek keeper Kaeyla Noble was able to keep it a one-goal game.
The second half proved to be an entirely different story, however, as the Raptors came out of the intermission fired up, and took the game to Windsor. That resulted in Alexa Karsel scoring the equalizer in the 43rd minute, blistering an absolute laser from the left side of the penalty box past the Wizards keeper just inside the far post.
Silver Creek pressed its advantage from there on out, but were burned on one of only a few good chances Windsor had in the final 40 minutes of play. The Wizards were able to develop an odd man rush with Chaynee Kingsbury closing in on the right side of goal. As Noble went out to challenge her, Kingsbury sent a beautiful cross to an unmarked Alexa Kopren who had plenty of time to bury the ball past a diving Noble in the 53rd minute.
"The one thing is effort, and all I can remember is just sprinting across the goal and hoping that my dive would get the ball," said Noble, who finished with five saves.
Noble, one of nine seniors on the Raptors roster, said while the loss stung, the experience the team shared this season made it all worthwhile.
"I'm so proud of our team," Noble said. "Coming from last season we really wanted it. We wanted to be it. We grew into a family and we have chemistry and we have more balance than any team in our conference.
"I'm so incredibly proud to be a Raptor."
John Rosa: 303-473-1315, firstname.lastname@example.org
Windsor 2, Silver Creek 1
At Legacy StadiumSilver Creek (16-1-2)01—1
Goals (assists) —Silver Creek: Alexa Karsel, 43rd minute; Windsor: Adalyn Vergara (PK), sixth minute; Alexa Kopren (Chaynee Kingsbury), 53rd minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Silver Creek: Kaeyla Noble 80-2-5; Windsor: Michaela Moran 80-1-3.