WESTMINSTER — It is a daunting task that awaits the Fairview girls soccer team Friday on the final day of the regular season, and for a good portion of the Knights’ match Thursday against Horizon they played as if they were dreading having to get up tomorrow for what will be soccer’s equivalent of final exams.
Yet once the Knights started to play as if there was no tomorrow, they were able to create some beautiful late-game magic.
It was sophomore Reci Smith who played the role of hero for Fairview, keeping the Knights alive with a goal late in regulation before scoring the winner with 19 seconds remaining in overtime to lift Fairview to a 2-1 comeback victory at North Stadium.
It was crucial win for the Knights who, thanks to the recent rash of weather-forced postponements, end the regular season on Friday with an unusual doubleheader. Fairview (10-2-1, 7-2 Front Range League) will host Greeley West at noon before returning to North Stadium to take on league co-leader Legacy at 6 p.m.
“I think this was a real confidence-booster, despite how poorly we played,” Fairview coach Dan Niedringhaus said. “That was what our speech was (at halftime) — it was about concentration on the moment. Doing what you have to do at the moment, at this time, and not worry about what’s coming next. To their credit, we stopped playing kickball and started putting some passes together.”
Neither team mounted much of a challenge during a scoreless first half, and it was Horizon that put itself in position to pull off the upset after a rebound goal by Hawks senior Darian Drake in the 54th minute.
With his club having already played twice this week, Niedringhaus substituted liberally throughout the first half in preparation for Friday’s two-game odyssey. However, with the game on the line the Knights were forced to put together a furious finish.
After having a potential game-tying goal ricochet off the crossbar 12 minutes earlier, Smith sent the game to overtime by pushing a shot between two Horizon defenders with 2 minutes, 26 seconds remaining.
Smith converted the winner late in overtime after senior Kristin Breakell was able to track down a lead pass along the right end line. Breakell fed a wide-open Smith, whose 10th goal of the season set off a celebration that was part euphoria, part relief.
“We needed that win more than anything,” Smith said. “We may not have been in the playoffs without that win, so we were doing everything we could.”
Given that Fairview has already suffered two league losses and has a tough draw against a front-running Legacy squad that has played only once this week, getting a win Thursday almost was as critical as squeezing in the matinee makeup game against Greeley West on Friday.
Tired or not, the Knights figure to handle Greeley West, which would keep Fairview in position to claim one of the four automatic qualifiers to the state tournament from the Front Range League. Cross-town rival Boulder, which defeated Fairview, also plays a doubleheader on Friday with a road match against league co-leader Fossil Ridge at 10 a.m. before closing the regular season at Recht Field against Mountain Range at 5 p.m.
The Knights could finish anywhere from second place to out of the four automatic qualifying spots depending on how the whirlwind final day of the regular season plays out. Yet a win against Greeley West would, at the least, cement the Knights’ credentials for one of the state tourney’s 11 at-large bids, if necessary.
“It’s a very big win for us,” Breakell said. “We came in expecting to win, but we knew it was going to be a hard game. Now we just have to take one game at a time.”
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Fairview 2, Horizon 1
At North Field
Fairview (10-2-1, 7-2) 0 1 1 — 2
Home Team (0-0, 0-0) 0 1 0 — 1
Goals (assists) — Horizon: Drake (Lucero), 54th minute; Fairview: Smith (Beetcher), 78th minute; Fairview: Smith (Breakell), 8th minute.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Fairview: Tallman (85-1-3); Horizon: Bradley (85-2-7).