AAron Ontiveroz / THE DENVER POST
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
AAron Ontiveroz / THE DENVER POST
BROOMFIELD — Hailey Stodden didn’t have to come back and play high school soccer again.
The University of Utah commit has played the game she loved all over the world and at the highest levels. She is even on the United States Women’s National team radar as part of their U17 and U20 teams.
But Stodden realizes that there is just something about playing for your school, especially your senior season.
“A lot of these girls I have been playing with since I was young, and since freshman year I felt committed to this team,” Stodden said. “And to (coach) Jim (Davidson). He has been committed to me so much and I wanted to finish off high school with people that supported me and supported what I have done.”
In arguably the toughest league in the state — the Front Range — Stodden bagged a Class 5A-best 32 goals, including some at the most critical times in the Eagles’ run to the state title game, and for that the Eagles star earned her second-straight BoCoPreps.com Player of the Year honors.
“The pressure on these kids when it comes to developmental academies and the national team exposure, it is hard to pass those things up ,” said Davidson, whose team just missed out on a state title — losing 1-0 in overtime to Grandview last month in the championship game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “Hailey had that opportunity to be a holdover with the U20’s and go train in France and decided she needed to get back to Broomfield for her senior season.
“And for her to graduate in good standing was one of those exceptional decisions made by an exceptional person.”
Stodden, who is listed on the national team as a defender, had the knack for creating offensive chances not only for herself but the talented teammates — notably Mallory Mooney and Gia Lemley — around her at the right time.
Davidson, who said he was just fine with Stodden being “selfish” on the field when she needed to take over a game, watched his star rise to the occasion multiple times during a stressful playoff run.
Stodden all but took over the game in the quarterfinals against Columbine, possession-wise and the ultimately scoring the game-winner in overtime after the Eagles tied the Rebels in the 78th minute.
In the semifinals against Rock Canyon, Stodden scored twice on penalty kicks to move the Eagles into the title game.
“It may sound cliche that the big players are big in big games and obviously that rings true with Hailey,” said Davidson, who credited Stodden’s fitness level as one of her strongest attributes. “We kind of rode her back, especially in that semifinal when we were really struggling.
“The thing that separated her this year from the other was that she really expressed herself on all levels. Not only did she lead (Class 5A) in scoring, but she did the work defensively for us.”
Stodden, ever the humble teammate, was unable to point to that one moment during her season that really stood out on her personal highlight reel — and she had a lot.
Rather, she said: “At the beginning of the season, I know a lot of people weren’t really sure how good we were going to be. And the highlight was really how we came together as a team and this was by far the closest we have ever been and the big reason we made it so far was because we were pushing for each other all the way to the end.”
Stodden will head to Salt Lake City next month to get started on her training with the Utes and will also begin to earn her degree in sports management.