Moments after Monarch was extinguished from the first round of the playoffs by Arapahoe last spring, Sarah Hunter spoke optimistically about the possibilities the Coyotes had in 2019.
Turns out, it wasn't just talk.
She's helping make sure of that.
The senior keeper turned away a furious attack from Fairview in the second half with a number of strong denials, and Monarch held on to beat the Knights 2-1 Thursday for their fifth straight win to open the year.
Afterward, Hunter recalled her sunny disposition from a season ago and grinned. She pointed at the transformation of a team that blossomed from two seniors in 2018 to the 14 currently on roster.
"We've been together for four years and have all that energy together," she said. "And what made us successful here on the field today is we could work together as a team and that came from all of us being together for so long."
Bailey Wallace and Dakota Anderson scored amidst traffic in the box to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead at half, but the Knights answered with a resurgent finish.
Blythe Sales' turnaround blast in the 42nd made it 2-1 — and the chances continued to pour on from there.
Adriane Mason speared a shot that required a leaping save from Hunter.
Another chance started with a melee atop the box that left bodies on the ground and the ball scurrying behind. Hunter, though, rushed to her feet and secured it.
"They had us on our heels for sure and (Hunter) was the most composed player on the field by far," Monarch coach Troy Tewalt said. "Big saves, smart decisions."
Monarch improved to 5-0 for the first time in recent memory and has won all three of its games in the 5A Front Range League. After finishing 6-1-1 to secure a 21-seed in the playoffs last year, the Coyotes have now outscored their first five opponents 18-2.
The bench stormed onto the field at the horn after holding on against the Knights (2-2, 1-1).
"Every player on both teams knows each other and are friends," Tewalt said. "It's very personal for both. They have fun, but it's big when you match up with your friends. I think that's why you saw that reaction."
Added Hunter: "This is the game I want to win the most."
Wallace scored her second goal of the year to put Monarch up 1-0 in the 16th minute. The junior was denied minutes earlier after her chance forced Fairview keeper Hayden Velds to lift high up for the deny.
Try two found net.
Brae Cole's free kick from left of the box rattled off bodies in front of the net and came to Wallace, whose shot deflected off a defender and rolled in.
In the 33rd, Anderson added to it when she headed a cross from Addie Lowrie.
"We just kept pushing and it all came together," Wallace said.
Fairview took over after that. And if not for Hunter, perhaps things would have ended differently.
"First half, I think we were just a little tight and didn't play to our shape well," Fairview coach Steve Griggs said. "Going forward you'll see more of the team you saw in the second half."
Brent W. New: firstname.lastname@example.org and @brentwnew
Monarch 2, Fairview 1
At Fairview HSMonarch (5-0, 3-0) 2 0 — 2
Goals (assists) —Monarch: Wallace (Cole) 16th minute, Anderson (Lowrie) 33rd; Fairview: Sales (Mason) 42nd.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Monarch: Hunter (80-1-11); Fairview: Velds (40-2-3), Mousseau (40-0-2).