COMMERCE CITY — In the summer of 2014, Broomfield soccer coach Jim Davidson took a vacation to Ireland.
The luck of the Irish was clearly on his side this school year, having guided the Eagles boys to a state title in their first season in the state biggest classification.
On Wednesday night back at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, he had another chance with his girls against Grandview.
Unfortunately the luck ran out against the second-seeded Wolves, who made Jessica Hixson’s tally in the 27th minute hold up for what turned out to be a 2-0 victory and gave Grandview its first title since 2008.
“We took the first half off and that was the difference,” said Davidson, who started just one senior. “I can accept the result because we made it worthy of a state championship.
“But unfortunately in a match like this, if you don’t play an 80-minute game, you make it really hard on yourself. I think I have been in 13 state title games and I have never seen a team in any of the matches play from behind.”
In the game’s first 10 minutes, it was more of a feeling out process with limited shots coming from either side. The Wolves slowly started to dictate the pace, beating the Eagles at their own midfield possession game and getting quality looks in some wide open spaces against the Eagles and keeper Shannon Mooney.
The goal came off a corner kick, one of seven in the first half for Grandview compared to zero to Broomfield, which lost its third straight title game.
Nicole Lyubenko’s delivery went right to the penalty spot and deflected to Hixson, whose shot beat Mooney high.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game and that we were going to have to work hard for it,” said Mooney, whose team had to sit and watch the 4A game go into penalty kicks between Cheyenne Mountain and Lewis-Palmer. “I think we were just off a little bit in the first half, but we started to get with it in the second half.”
Mere moments later, the Eagles responded and were awarded a direct free kick from 25 yards out that Zoe Zinis sailed just over the top of Maddie Lesjak’s goal frame.
Grandview (18-1-1), champions of the Centennial League, nearly expanded its lead in the closing seconds of the first half on Lyubenko’s shot from the top of the box through traffic. Mooney reacted just in time and moved to her left to make a diving save at her near post. It was that little nugget of momentum the Eagles were able to take into the locker room.
“It certainly helped that they didn’t score because we needed that to stay in the game,” said Mooney, who finished with eight saves.
Ever the tactician, Davidson made the necessary adjustment at the half and from the outset of the second 40 minutes, the Eagles dominated the play in the early going in search of the equalizer against a team that had surrendered just five goals all season.
The Eagles (17-2-1) had a grand opportunity in the 44th to level the score when Makena Bambei — the hero of the semifinal win over top-seeded Mountain Vista — tried to tuck one under the crossbar but had her shot deflect off the iron.
“Makena took her chance and it is unfortunate that the crossbar got in the way,” Davidson said. “I think we equalize that game and all of the sudden we have a lot of momentum that last 25 minutes.
“So that was disappointing, but I’m glad she took her chance.”
It turned out to be the last really good chance the Eagles would generate despite making every desperate attempt to get players forward.
Broomfield nearly caught Lesjak out of position in the 66th minute. With the senior keeper out near the top of her box, freshman Gia Lemley had a go at an open net that sailed wide right.
It was a bitter end to the season that started with so much adversity after losing senior Hailey Mazzola against Niwot in the third match of the season.
But if that did anything, it gave the Eagles a chance to mold their talented group of underclassmen into a state runner-up, something a lot of people outside the Broomfield camp thought was out of the realm of possibility.
“We had a lot of belief and to get to the final, we had it in the back of our minds and obviously after the win on Saturday (against top-seeded Mountain Vista) we thought we had great belief,” said Davidson, who watched his opponent record its 16th clean sheet of the year. “Grandview deserves a lot of credit. They prepared themselves to play hard right from the very beginning and made it difficult for us.
“We were on our heels and they started on the front foot and that was hard to come back from.”
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Grandview 2, Broomfield 0
At Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Broomfield (17-2-1) 0 0 — 0
Goals (assists) — Grandview: Jessica Hixson (Nicole Lyubenko), 27th minute; Grandview: Mandi Duggan (unassisted).
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Broomfield: Shannon Mooney (80-2-8); Grandview: Maddie Lesjak (79-0-6), Cristina Salazar (1-0-0).