LOUISVILLE — Monarch’s hot start to its rainy and gray home opening playoff game fizzled late in the first half and never quite returned to form.
A cold end to a 13-win season that felt anything but.
Jake Boling scored two goals 39 seconds apart late in the opening half for No. 10 seed Highlands Ranch, which rallied to score eight of the final nine goals in its 10-5 victory Wednesday evening over the seventh-seeded Coyotes as part of the Class 5A state tournament.
“Right now, this really, really stings and hurts,” Monarch coach David Auday said. “But it was a very successful season.”
Monarch (13-3) entered the year in a seemingly precarious spot after finding out some players from the 2018 roster would be playing at new district programs. But it didn’t show.
The Coyotes bounced back from a season-opening loss to Cherry Creek to win 13 of 14. Their only other loss came in a thriller to Fairview, which propelled the Knights to the 5A Front Range League title and the No. 16 spot in the postseason.
“I think it’s important to recognize we came out with such a good attitude after losing those players,” said senior captain Drew Tausan, who finished with 98 goals and 40 assists over his career. “To come out (of the regular season) with a 13-2 record, that’s like one of the best records we’ve had as a Coyotes’ program. I think it was good for us as a program to see we are able to overcome adversity and play as a team and win our games like we’re supposed to.”
Their opening-round opponent, Highlands Ranch, dealt in something far different over the last 24 hours.
The Falcons (11-5) traveled an hour north a day after their community was shaken by the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, which is less than five miles away from their high school. One student was killed, and eight others were injured, according to reports by multiple outlets as of Wednesday evening.
Auday said he and Monarch athletic director Eric Gustafson reached out to the Falcons’ administration and lacrosse coach Brent Adams in wake of the tragedy. After the game, Adams said he was proud of how his team and the community has responded.
“It’s been a little hectic,” Adams said. “It’s tough in that kind of situation to focus on our task at hand. But I think they did a great job. We’ve been with each other and the community in Highlands Ranch is just absolutely amazing, so they were able to use this as an opportunity to get a little bit closer together.”
Auday praised Adams and his program afterward. He expressed his frustration and his pain for another community dealing in the aftermath of a school shooting.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” Auday said. “On the upside, it’s good to see that community, if it were any, to get a win. I hope they go all the way.”
A continuous rain pounded the Monarch High School turf throughout the day as less than ideal game-time conditions saw spectators layered up and cast under a various array of umbrellas.
The Coyotes opened the scoring 2 minutes, 33 seconds into the first quarter when Tausan took a pass from Braeden Wimer before netting his team-leading 45th goal of the season. The lead grew to 4-2 midway into the second thanks to a pair of goals from Ben Riecken and another from Dylan Torres.
In the fourth, Nathan Mueller snapped a string of six straight goals from the Falcons with 8:47 remaining.
Highlands Ranch 10, Monarch 5
At Monarch HS
Highlands Ranch (11-5) 1 3 4 2 — 10
Monarch (13-3) 2 2 0 1 — 5
Goals — Highlands Ranch: Smith 3, Boling 2, Lowe 2, Naves, Hammond, Karl; Monarch: B. Riecken 2, Tausan, Mueller, Torres.
Assists — Highlands Ranch: Naves 3, Lowe; Monarch: Wimer 2.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Highlands Ranch: Monroe 48-5-6; Monarch: Korac 48-10-6.