WESTMINSTER — Over the course of the season, Kaylee Kennedy chiseled her way into Legacy girls soccer’s starting lineup.
There was just something about the freshman midfielder and her nose for the ball that gained coach David Castro’s attention. And on Wednesday night, the innate ability that caught her coach’s eye could not help but capture everyone’s in North Stadium.
Kennedy struck the decisive goal in second-seeded Legacy’s 2-1 overtime victory against No. 10 Cherry Creek in the Class 5A state quarterfinals. Arguably the weightiest goal of the freshman’s short career left her flying high, despite getting flattened by her teammates after netting the ball.
“This is an amazing feeling,” she said. “I’ve never felt like this before.”
Kennedy’s opportunism in the 89th minute of the game earned her team its first appearance in the state semifinals. The Lightning (16-2) face No. 3 Rock Canyon (15-1-1) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Denver’s All-City Stadium.
Even with Legacy appearing to be a team of destiny this season, it had to dig deep to set up its young hero’s left-footed goal. The team endured perhaps its most adverse finish this season, having to play the final 24 minutes against defending state champion Cherry Creek (10-5-1) a player short.
Legacy defensman Sarah Goodman received a red card in the 65th minute after tripping a Bruins attacker just outside the Legacy box. It was a play that will sideline her the next game and had her heartbroken Wednesday night.
“She came off crying,” Castro said. “But I told her not to worry, her teammates were not going to let it end this way.”
The coach’s words rang true with Legacy surviving a string of scares before finally setting up the winning goal off a set piece. A direct kick got the play going, then Kennedy got her look when Cherry Creek’s defense converged on Legacy’s top scorer.
“Kelsey (Killean) drew like five players, so I was wide open in the middle,” the freshman said. “So I’ve got to thank her for that one.”
The Bruins’ attention to Killean was more than understandable. The University of Georgia recruit had ripped off three goals in the postseason entering Wednesday night. And she notched her fourth against Creek in what at the time appeared to be the game-winner.
After 46 minutes of tightly played defense by both teams, Killean beating two defenders for the night’s first goal looked like all it was going to take to earn a decision. But as quickly as the deadlock was broken it was reinstated when Amanda Schneider equalized the game for Cherry Creek 10 minutes later.
“This has definitely been our closest game this year,” Killean said. “And it was the most stressful.”
Even with the last round’s tight finish, Castro does not anticipate tinkering with Legacy. The coach plans to approach Rock Canyon like every other team the Lightning have faced this year. With that, he fully aims to keep expectations high for his team’s performance in a season that becomes more historic with each win.
“We’ve had the goal of the whole thing, not just part of it,” Castro said. “I don’t think anyone is satisfied yet.”
Follow Elwood on Twitter @ElwoodKShelton.
Legacy 2, Cherry Creek 1
At Mountain Range H.S.
Cherry Creek (10-5-1) 0 1 0 — 1
Legacy (16-2) 0 1 1 — 2
Goals (assists) — Cherry Creek: Amanda Schneider (unassisted), 56th minute. Legacy: Kelsey Killean (Madison Gallegos), 48th minute; Kaylee Kennedy (Michaela Vadeboncouer), 89th minute.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Cherry Creek: Alex Kahalley (89-20-5). Legacy Samantha Privett (89-1-3).