Hardy Kalisher was never going to be satisfied by simply returning what had been a playoff-starved Boulder High boys soccer program to the postseason.
Kalisher wanted to build something more enduring, something that would combine a passion for the sport with compassion for one another both on and off the field. On these counts Kalisher has been wildly successful, as evidenced by the Panthers’ postseason track record under the veteran coach.
When Boulder hits the turf at Legacy Field Wednesday evening against Smoky Hill in the Class 5A state semifinals, it will add another chapter to what is a rapidly-growing list of accomplishments the program has achieved in Kalisher’s nine seasons at the helm.
As Kalisher explains, Boulder doesn’t rebuild. The Panthers reload.
“They’ve responded to having a coaching staff that sets a high standard every year,” Kalisher said. “We don’t ever rebuild. It’s always reload, and we tell them that every year. Four new defenders in the back, got a new goalie, and we just reload. The boys have stepped up to that.
“I think the talent level since I’ve been here has been very consistent. But what has happened is the confidence level continues to grow. That’s contagious. The legacy of the program is to pass that on to the next boys in line.”
Wednesday’s match will mark Boulder’s fourth semifinal appearance in five years. The Panthers have reached at least the quarterfinals in all but one of the past six seasons, and Boulder has qualified for the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons since Kalisher took over. Of course, the golden jewell of the Kalisher era was the 2012 state championship, a title won when the current crop of juniors and seniors were impressionable freshmen and sophomores.
“Before our first game we sat in our locker room and went over the goals we wanted to achieve this season,” senior defender Mitch Davis said. “One of the main things we wrote on the board were ‘Playing for each other,’ and ‘Love and effort.’ I think that mentality and that tradition has really pushed us to have the success we’ve had this season.”
That first game was against the same Smoky Hill club the Panthers will meet Wednesday night. Boulder walked off the field on Aug. 26 on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision. But the Panthers haven’t lost since, earning three draws against state tournament clubs Rock Canyon, Cherry Creek and Poudre while compiling a 14-1-3 mark.
Balance has keyed Boulder, with six different players scoring at least four goals heading into the semifinals. The defense has been superb in front of goalie Leo Huettel during the team’s 11-game win streak, recording shutouts in eight of those wins. As usual, the Panthers didn’t skimp on their schedule, adding perhaps the toughest non-conference slate in the state on top of playing within the Front Range League, the state’s toughest conference which has sent three teams into the final four.
“That helps a lot. It helps us be mentally and physically prepared for the game,” senior defender Skye Guegan said. “We just need to take this like every other game. We have to remember what they did to us last time and make every play count.”
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