LAFAYETTE — It is common in prep sports for a program to sit atop the mountain for years. But rarely can such prosperity last forever.
After nearly a half decade of dominance with some of the best players in the state, the Peak to Peak girls soccer team had to know it was bound to have a down year sooner or later. This is that year.
But in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Kent Denver, ranked second in the latest CHSAANow.com poll, the Pumas saw signs that they’re turning things around.
“I was really proud of the way we played today,” senior captain Brianna Wetmore said. “This was the best we’ve played all season. We had a lot more possession today and we were able to get it up a lot more. It’s tough when you lose the players we lost and we’ve just been trying to figure it out. Today, we really showed how well we can play.”
Two-time defending 3A state champions, the Pumas graduated eight seniors after last season, including two-time BoCoPreps.com player of the year Belle Morel. After compiling a 48-9-3 record over the past three seasons, the Pumas sit at 2-8-1 overall, and 2-4 in 3A Region 6 competition with four games left in 2014.
With a 1-0 victory on May 18, 2013, the Pumas eliminated the Sun Devils in the semifinals of last year’s state tournament. Now leading the 3A Region 6 standings, the Sun Devils (8-3-1, 6-1) got some revenge against Peak.
But Pumas junior goalkeeper Sarah Shepherd kept Peak to Peak in the game with 16 saves and freshman forward Rebecca Thompson prevented a sixth shutout loss with a goal in the 12th minute on a cross from fellow freshman Rachel Fitzsimmons.
“We have improved so much throughout the season, it’s crazy,” Thompson said. “We have a ton of new players who aren’t used to playing so it’s been hard to adjust to that. We’ve had bits and pieces in every game where we’ve looked really good. In this game, it really started to come together and we started to get the effort throughout the entire game and really pushed.”
Defensively, the Pumas were happy with holding the Sun Devils to two scores after they allowed an average of 3.6 goals through their first 10 matches. Thompson’s goal was also a quality score against a Kent Denver defense that has allowed just 12 goals in 12 games.
First-year head coach Joe Swanson said the Pumas got several people back from injury recently, including senior Jordan Harjes, who was in a car accident and missed most of the season. The biggest difference Swanson saw in his players on Tuesday was their confidence level.
“We finally got a really nice lineup out there and got some people healthy and back,” Swanson said. “There was a lot of energy from everybody today. We’ve been battling a little bit of apathy this year and to gain some confidence back is big. It’s taken us a little more than half the season to do that but we’re starting to find it a little bit.”
The Pumas will look to keep building confidence at home against Bishop Machebeuf (4-8, 1-6 3A Region 6) on Thursday.
Follow Brad on Twitter: twitter.com/BradCochi
Kent Denver 2, Peak to Peak 1
At Peak to Peak H.S.
Kent Denver (8-3-1, 6-1) 2 0 — 2
Peak to Peak (2-8-1, 2-4) 1 0 — 1
Goals (assists) — Kent Denver: Shelby Schumacher (Lindsay Ricciardelli), 3rd minute; Schumacher (Natalie Ricci), 32nd minute; Peak to Peak: Rebecca Thompson (Rachel Fitzsimmons), 12th minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Kent Denver: Morgan McGonagle (80-1-5); Peak to Peak: Sarah Shepherd (80-2-16).