HIGHLANDS RANCH — It’s one thing to hear and read everything about how good a team is.
It’s quite another to see it in front of you.
By no means was Legacy intimidated by ThunderRidge when the Lightning headed to Shea Stadium for the second round of the Class 5A state tournament, but it knew it was going to take a nearly flawless effort to knock off the one-loss Grizzlies.
Despite playing a wonderful second 40 minutes, third-seeded ThunderRidge did all the damage it needed to do in the first 25 minutes of the match and cruised into the quarterfinals with a 4-1 win over Legacy.
“There was a little intimidation factor. Part of it is their record and part of it is knowing that they have National Team players,” said Legacy coach Luke Meadows, whose team concludes its season 9-5-3. “Just the caliber of what we knew they had, is something realistically, on paper, that we haven’t faced this year.”
A ThunderRidge roster that has four Division I signees and seven college-bound players altogether went to work early on the Lightning.
The Grizzlies (16-1) earned a direct free kick straight on to Victoria Bonahoom’s goal from 35-yards out. Texas Christian-bound senior Kayla Hill was able to put a shot right on Bonahoom, despite the wall and multitude of other bodies. Bonahoom initially handled it, but wasn’t able to secure and had it slip through her gloves and in.
“It was unfortunate the way the first goal went in and certainly there is no fault to be put on anybody,” Meadows said. “But it was one of those things that when the goal went in, it was like, oh, now we’ve got to play and the light bulb goes on.
“It was unfortunate that we had to go down a goal to see that.”
Just six minutes later, ThunderRidge added on. Janessa Fowler beat her defender and was able to turn the corner on the end line. She sent a pass to the near post and Aspen Robinson flicked it up and over Bonahoom to the far post and in.
Robinson would add one more in the 25th minute on a brilliant feed from freshman Shae Holmes.
To its credit, the Lightning responded with an inspired second half against the Grizzlies. After getting just one real chance in the first half, it took only seven minutes for Legacy to threaten ThunderRidge backup keeper Sierra Roth when Parker Barnhardt had her shot sail just over the bar.
Legacy got on the board in the 51st minute. On a direct free kick that was basically a glorified corner, Gracie Armstrong was right on the money to the far post where Abby Deakin was camped out and was able to finish with ease.
“The second half we did a really good job. I think we pressed and we tried our hardest,” said Deakin, who also scored in the Lightning’s 2-1 win over Denver East in the first round. “I felt like we were trying to play with speed and pressure up high and we should have done that from the beginning.”
Legacy expended a lot of effort in the first 20-25 minutes of the half and just didn’t have enough n the tank to close the gap any further.
ThunderRidge added an insurance goal with three minutes to play. Holmes finished off Hill’s corner with her head.
ThunderRidge will host Cherry Creek in the quarterfinals next Wednesday back at Shea Stadium.
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ThunderRidge 4, Legacy 1
At Shea Stadium
Legacy (9-5-3) 0 1 — 1
ThunderRidge (16-1) 3 1 — 4
Goals (assists) — ThunderRidge: Kayla Hill (unassisted), 9th minute; ThunderRidge: Aspen Robinson (Janessa Fowler), 15th; ThunderRidge: Robinson (Shae Holmes), 25th; Legacy: Abby Deakin (Gracie Armstrong), 51st; ThunderRidge: Holmes (Hill), 77th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Legacy: Victoria Bonahoom (80-4-9); ThunderRidge: Sierra Roth (80-1-2).