Girls soccer: Smaller schools dominating local playoff scene once again

Jefferson Academy, Dawson School headline group of teams still playing

Jefferson Academy goalkeeper Brooklynn Kirkpatrick has given her team a chance to win every time out so far in 2019, having allowed just four goals. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)
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One team got to this point by way of winning a road game without their head coach. Another finally got a push in the playoffs, perhaps just the thing needed to regain some perspective. Yet a third team is trying to capture lightning in a bottle as they come up on perhaps the most impressive team in the Class 3A girls soccer bracket.

For Prospect Ridge, Jefferson Academy and Peak to Peak the respective journey to this point in the playoffs has been vastly different. But all in all, none of it can be considered surprising.

The Metro League continues to dominate the classification, and the Miners, Jaguars and Pumas are right in the thick of it as five of the final eight teams alive reside in the powerhouse conference. And while Silver Creek remains in the 4A field and Dawson School in 2A, the expectations of having a local representative — or more than one, for that matter — in the 3A semifinals are high.

Wednesday, the journey will ultimately come to an end for one of these teams — with Peak to Peak playing Kent Denver to represent the only quarterfinal matchup with two Metro teams battling each other. However, that also presents a scenario where all three teams can advance to Saturday’s semifinals.

All of the possibilities surely made for an interesting league meeting on Tuesday night, with lots of banter between highly successful coaches, Jefferson Academy coach Denise Sutton said.

Sutton’s Jaguars are expecting a second straight challenge from an opponent they don’t get to see often. Aspen will travel to play JA in a rematch of a semifinal last year won by the Jags, 1-0. It eventually parlayed into a 3A title for the program. Sutton said that Aspen was ranked No. 4 for most of the year in RPI, but that not having a 15th regular season game hurt the Skiers when it came to seeding. So, after squeaking past Roaring Fork in the second round, 3-2, Sutton said she is trying to gear her team of for what can only be described as a final four-type game in the quarterfinals.

Jefferson Academy senior Bridget Lynch, who was crucial in the Jaguars shootout victory against Kent Denver in last year's Class 3A championship game, has four goals this season. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff photographer)
Jefferson Academy senior Bridget Lynch, who was crucial in the Jaguars shootout victory against Kent Denver in last year’s Class 3A championship game, has four goals this season. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff photographer)

“When you have that team state championship, teams come out you very excited, very hopeful and very intense and to be able to keep that level of intensity in our girls in this moment, in this stage, is a little bit difficult,” Sutton said. “It’s about keeping this mindset that everybody is out to beat you, that it’s a great success if they can score on you, you have to adjust to that.

“Aspen should be a wonderful team to play against and we’re not underestimating them at all. This is an exciting time for all these teams.”

Peak to Peak’s matchup against Kent Denver poses the Pumas with an incredible challenge, as the Sun Devils allowed two goals all season, both against Colorado Academy in a game played at the outset of May. Prospect Ridge, the tournament’s No. 13 seed, faces Vail Mountain — an addition to the 3A scene after having captured a 2A state title as recently as 2016.

The Miners are in the midst of their most successful season, and the wins continued this past Saturday despite the fact head coach Rod Muir was out of town to attend his daughter’s college graduation. The Miners captured a 2-1, double-overtime victory at Salida, pushing their record to a program-best 11-6 in just their third year of CHSAA-sanctioned varsity play.

Down in 2A, teams are already in the semifinal round and the Dawson Mustangs will look for a fifth consecutive championship game appearance with a win Wednesday over No. 9 seed Crested Butte. The Mustangs have had to play just one playoff game so far, and that was an 8-0 walloping of Colorado Rocky Mountain School. Crested Butte has outscored playoff opponents 12-4 so far.

The big school hopes for advancement reside in the Raptors of Silver Creek, the No. 8 seed in 4A who have performed well in two early round games having not allowed a goal in two games. In what can be considered one of the most open-ended brackets in quite some time, Silver Creek will play top-seeded D’Evelyn on Wednesday.