NIWOT — It had been nearly a month since Niwot’s Hannah Gray scored her only goal of the 2014 season against Peak to Peak on March 13. She waited all the way through regulation against Centaurus on Thursday to get her second.
But, oh boy, was it worth the wait for Gray and the Cougars.
After 84 minutes of brutal, scoreless soccer, the Cougars sophomore forward fired the game-winning golden goal that won the game 1-0 for her team.
“It was a rough game. We just kept fighting through it until the end,” Gray said. “We really wanted that goal and we kept our heads up. I just saw the back post. That was one of those where you don’t really think about it, you just go for it.”
In the 85th minute, Gray found space on the left side of the 18-yard box after a through pass from junior teammate Shannon Fischer. With her teammates making their runs, Gray instead aimed for the far side of the goal and expertly lobbed the ball just out of Warriors goalkeeper Aubrey Schatz’s reach.
Gray’s shot was the prize each team had scrapped over for an entire game but couldn’t nail down. But for this Cougars (7-1, 3-0) team, which is determined to redeem itself after last year’s late-season collapse, it was a violent shove in the right direction.
Gray and several Cougars, including first-year head coach Rob Johnson, agreed that Thursday’s physical stalemate was the type of game that last year’s team may have folded and lost.
“We were anticipating it and we had the pressure on us with everyone watching us after last year,” Gray said. “I think this game definitely defines how we’re ready to come back after last year.”
With the type of pressure Niwot put on the Warriors (6-4-1, 2-2) defense in the first half, they were certain something would eventually get through if they just kept it up. But even with their talented attacking players, the Warriors’ defensive back line matched their athleticism quite well throughout.
Though the Cougars dominated the attack in the first half, the Warriors created several opportunities off the cuff that could have won the game late in the second.
“That game could have gone either way,” Johnson said. “I thought we had some better looks but that’s about it. Danelle (Dondelinger) is a heck of a player. She can play and she put some pressure on us and (Maddison) Hogan, their center back, played great so it was a great game.”
Dondelinger, a senior midfielder who leads the Warriors with 12 assists and also has seven goals, rang a shot off the upper right corner in the 72nd minute and nearly broke free for a one-on-one chance 10 minutes later. But offensively, the already banged-up Warriors struggled without junior Lauren Esler, who left the game in the first half with a knee injury.
Warriors head coach Mario Bezzina said Wednesday’s game was indicative of the current competitive level in the 4A Northern League. Five of its eight teams — fourth-ranked Broomfield, Niwot, Centaurus, Longmont and Silver Creek — received votes in the latest CHSAANow.com girls soccer poll.
“It was a tight contest. Obviously, we’re kind of hurting with injuries so that made it tough,” Bezzina said. “At the end, it was one of those shots from a tough angle that you can’t do anything about. The girls played hard and it was just a matter of who was going to find the goal first.”
Niwot, which is currently tied with Broomfield atop the Northern League, will look to keep its five-game win streak going against Dawson School on Saturday. The Warriors will try to get back on track against Thompson Valley next Tuesday.
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Niwot 1, Centaurus 0
At Niwot H.S.
Centaurus (6-4-1, 2-2) 0 0 0 — 0
Niwot (7-1, 3-0) 0 0 1 — 1
Goals (assists) — Niwot: Hannah Gray (Shannon Fischer).
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Centaurus: Aubrey Schatz (85-1-7); Niwot: Isabel Aguayo (85-0-5).