LAFAYETTE — Playing against the same team, at the same location and in the same round of the state playoffs as last season, some members of the Centaurus girls soccer team must have been experiencing a case of déja vu when they took the pitch Tuesday.
And although the Warriors wouldn’t admit to any feelings of comfort in taking on a squad that they had beaten handily almost one year ago to the day, their play proved otherwise.
The Warriors scored four times in the first 30 minutes on their way to commanding 6-2 victory over Sand Creek in a game that was over nearly as soon as it began. The win moves Centaurus to the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs for the second consecutive year.
“I don’t think it was fair that they were seeded 24th (considering their record),” Centaurus head coach Mario Bezzina said. “Quite honestly, we were very concerned about this game. We’re glad it turned out the way it did, but we were not expecting an easy game at all.”
Said CHS sophomore Lauren Esler, who scored four goals on the night: “It’s a new year and everything changes every year, but we just scouted them and saw their players and knew we had to come out and play our best game to win.”
Esler got the party started for the ninth-seeded Warriors (9-2-3) in the fourth minute, after trailing a breakaway attempt by teammate Danelle Dondelinger. Although the junior’s initial attempt was deflected by the Scorpion keeper, the ball continued to roll toward the goal line and was tapped in by Esler from inches out.
The sophomore attacker, who scored two goals and added an assist in last year’s 4-2 win over SCHS, drilled her second score of the night into the back of the net 12 minutes later after the Sand Creek goalie came outside of the box to attempt to play a long ball. When the keeper became entangled with another Centaurus player, Esler found the ball at her feet with no one in between her and the frame, giving the Warriors a 2-0 edge.
Dondelinger scored on free kick from near midfield in the 27th minute, sending a high-arching ball into the box which bounded off the grass and over everyone’s head to make it 3-0. And Esler added her third three minutes later, breaking past the Scorpions’ back line and sliding a shot past the helpless goalie from 15 yards out to earn her hat trick and put an end to the contest for all intents and purposes.
“It’s not just the speed, it’s knowing when to go,” Bezzina said of his star sophomore, who leads the team with 20 goals on the season. “She’s got that vision and I think now that it’s their second year playing together, what you’re seeing there is the fluidity of the team working.”
Centaurus would continue the onslaught in the second half, with Esler finishing a beautiful buildup after receiving a pass from Shanlie Anderson and booting it in from 5 yards out. And sophomore Allison Ebersole made it 6-0 in the 57th, finishing from the top of the box on a breakaway.
Sand Creek (9-5-2) added two goals in the final seven minutes, but at that point it seemed that the Warriors were more concerned with escaping the rain-soaked pitch without injury than with the final margin. The start of the match was delayed over an hour as the teams were forced to leave the field due to lightning and rain storms that passed through the area, and the downpour picked up again in the waning minutes.
Centaurus will now travel to take on eighth-seeded Windsor Friday in round two of the playoffs. The Wizards beat Steamboat 3-1 Tuesday to advance.
“We just have to play as a team,” Esler said. “When we play as a team and keep the ball on the ground we’re a great team and we can do anything.”
Centaurus 6, Sand Creek 2
At Centaurus H.S.
Centaurus (9-2-3) 4 2 — 6
Sand Creek (9-5-2) 0 2 — 2
Goals (assists) — Centaurus: Lauren Esler, 6th minute; Esler, 16th minute; Danelle Dondelinger, 27th mintue; Esler 30th minute; Esler (Shanlie Anderson), 46th minute; Allison Ebersole, 57th minute. Sand Creek: Brianna Pratt, 73rd minute; Tarah Patterson, 78th minute.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Centaurus: Kathy Tran (80-2-8); Sand Creek: Megan Vyvlecka (80-6-2).