ARVADA – For 110 minutes Tuesday night, Monarch’s girls soccer team looked nothing like the 29th overall seed in the Class 5A state playoffs.
The Coyotes entered the North Area Athletic Complex as the underdog against fourth-seeded Ralston Valley, but backed by a stellar performance from senior goalkeeper Sophia Chen, Monarch refused to back down. A scoreless first-round game eventually came down to a shootout, where the Mustangs did just enough to edge the Coyotes 4-2 on penalty kicks and advance to the second round.
“We knew that drawing Monarch first round, even though we were a four seed, they were not going to be an easy opponent,” Ralston Valley coach Kamee Morwood said. “All their losses have come to really tough teams. We knew we were in for a fight.
“To come down like that, it’s crazy.”
Chen recorded 13 saves through regulation and two 15-minute overtime sessions. The Coyotes (7-9) even briefly held a 2-1 advantage in the shootout after goals from Sammie Holland and Ashton Hall, but luck turned against Monarch from there. Ralston Valley’s Maggie Snyder and Jenna Giambrocco beat Chen, while Coyotes sophomore Daisy Light’s attempt ricocheted off the crossbar.
Freshman Kate Bethune’s shot went high on Monarch’s next try, and Ralston Valley (12-4) put it away on a goal from Sarah Bevington.
Morwood had nothing but praise for Monarch and the effort of Chen, who turned away several good chances from the Mustangs.
Chen had two saves in the first overtime and another in the second OT. Twice she denied Ralston Valley’s Mackenzi Kirschner on long laser drives, timing her leap just right to push the ball over the net.
“Their keeper is fantastic. She’s skilled, she’s intense, she’s smart, she’s very good,” Morwood said. “I give a lot of props to her for keeping them in this game.”
Monarch finished with five shots on goal, all of which were turned away by Mustangs keeper Mikeila Ruotsala. The junior made perhaps her best stop of the night in the first overtime on a ball from Holland, tipping it up and catching it before the Coyotes could recover.
Monarch will graduate seven seniors from a team that finished seventh in the ultra-competitive Front Range League.
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Ralston Valley 0, Monarch 0 (Ralston Valley wins 4-2 in shootout)
Ralston Valley (12-4) 0000(2)—0
Goals (assists) — None.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Monarch: Sophia Chen (110-0-13); Ralston Valley: Mikeila Ruotsala (110-0-5).