HIGHLANDS RANCH — There must be something in the water in Highlands Ranch.
The southern suburb of Denver is a hotbed for girls soccer that appears to have college coaches all over the country drooling with anticipation at the next crop of players to come through.
Mountain Vista has been the much ballyhooed team in not just the state but the country this spring and the Golden Eagles showed an un-intimidated Fairview squad why on Friday night at Shea Stadium in the second round of the Class 5A state tournament, eliminated the Knights with a 5-1 decision.
“There is a difference between respecting a team, respecting what they are bringing at you, versus being afraid of a team,” Fairview coach Dan Niedringhaus said. “We are not afraid of anyone and our whole theme since we beat Arapahoe, was don’t worry about it.”
Despite opening the scoring in the 12th minute, Fairview was unable to sustain and wrapped up the season with an 11-5-1 record.
The opening 10 minutes of the match was even and the teams split possession, with the field leaning slightly in Fairview’s direction.
The Knights, whose game plan was “to try and get them on their heels early before they know what hit them,” according to Niedringhaus, worked that to perfection.
Tea Smith pounced on the rebound of a shot that Mountain Vista freshman keeper Kylie Love was unable to hang on to and finished with ease.
It was as if the Knights woke a sleeping giant.
Less than five minutes later, the Golden Eagles (15-2) equalized on a goal from sophomore Katie Joella.
It would remain that way until the closing seconds of the first half. A questionable call just on the outside of the box was deemed by the official to be in the box and thus awarded Mountain Vista with a penalty kick.
University of Tennessee-bound senior Megan Massey tried to beat Knights goalie Laura Hutchinson low and to her right, but Hutchinson denied her. But the Fairview goalie was unable to scramble back to the rebound in time and with 8.7 seconds left in the half, Massey didn’t miss the second time.
“As soon as we got in to the locker room the girls did a great job of keeping positive, saying that we got unlucky and that there is nothing we can do about it now,” said Niedringhaus, who praised his senior keeper. “Whale of a game, whale of a season. She put us on her shoulders this year, she played amazing.”
Despite the positive vibes in the locker room, the Knights came out a little flat and the Golden Eagles made them pay. Joella bagged her second goal of the match and made it a 3-1 game.
It got even worse for Fairview in the in the 47th minute, when Massey headed a difficult ball just over the outstretched hands of Hutchinson and into the side of the goal.
Hutchinson, who was beat by Massey one more time in the 73rd minute, played a magnificent game and finished with seven saves against a team that was relentless after the opening 15 minutes.
“A couple of bounces didn’t go our way and a couple of calls didn’t go our way and the rest kind of got out of our hands,” Niedringhaus said.
Mountain Vista will take on defending champ Columbine on Wednesday in the state quarterfinals.
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Mountain Vista 5, Fairview 1
At Shea Stadium
Fairview (11-5-1) 1 0 — 1
Mountain Vista (15-2) 2 3 — 5
Goals (assists) — Fairview: Tea Smith (unassisted), 12th minute; Mountain Vista: Katie Joella (unassisted), 17th; Mountain Vista: Megan Massey (unassisted), 40th; Mountain Vista: Katie Joella (unassisted), 42nd; Mountain Vista: Massey (unassisted), 47th; Mountain Vista: Massey (unassisted), 73rd.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Fairview: Laura Hutchinson (80-5-7); Mountain Vista: Kylie Love (80-1-2).