ENGLEWOOD — The girls soccer program at Prospect Ridge Academy played the role of Cinderella throughout the Class 3A postseason — so, a semifinals match against a team that drubbed the Miners by a mercy-rule margin of 10 goals earlier in the season seemed fitting enough for this storybook tale.
The 13th seed in the bracket kept even with top-seeded Colorado Academy for the first 60-plus minutes, thanks in large part to the play of senior keeper Linda Leahy, but the Mustangs eventually broke through late in a 2-0 victory Saturday afternoon at Englewood High School.
Leahy thwarted chances with aggressive play, stopped shots on the run and on the dive — totaling 20 of them — as she closed her high school career out in spectacular fashion.
Chants of “Lin-Da!, Lin-Da!” rang out from the bleachers after she laid out to corral a chance in front of a streaking forward to keep things scoreless at half.
“We went out with the most effort we could,” Leahy said. “Look at that score. It’s 2-0. Last game it was 10-0. … We didn’t care they were better than us. We just wanted to go out and play as a team.”
Coming off a 5-10 record in 2018, Prospect Ridge (12-7) flourished under first-year coach Rod Muir and smashed their program-best mark in wins, which included three straight in the postseason and two in double overtime against superior seeds.
Its postseason stride finally came to a halt a month after losing 10-0 at Colorado Academy.
“It’s just the desire to not give up,” Muir said. “The playoffs have taught us a lot and we just kept fighting.”
The clouds parted and the sun peered through for the rematch. In it, the biggest surprise of the bracket nearly delivered one more stunner as the Miners kept high-scoring Colorado Academy scoreless until Mari Annest’s strike in the 61st minute.
Before that, nothing stuck for the Mustangs (18-1), who tested Prospect Ridge’s bend-don’t-break defense throughout. The routine seemed to be a Leahy save followed by a quick clear, then back again. And every so often, the Miners would drive the other way and look for a chance of their own.
Colorado Academy had a series of consecutive corners at one point in the second half as it kept the box crowded for a good few minutes. Leahy made a few more nice saves, though, and the Mustangs’ Britt Lochhead hit the left post and teammate Catie Groves hit the crossbar.
And a little after that, the Mustangs hit the crossbar again.
Annest, the team’s leading scorer, finally put one away when she headed a corner just over the defense and the outstretched hands of Leahy for her 37th goal of the season. Maya Pellegrini added another in 65th.
Colorado Academy 2, Prospect Ridge Academy 0
At Englewood HS
PROSPECT RIDGE (12-7) 0 0 — 0
COLORADO ACADEMY (18-1) 0 2 — 2
Goals (assists) Prospect Ridge: No goals scored. Colorado Academy: Annest (Pellegrini) 61st minute, Pellegrini (Annest) 65th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Prospect Ridge: Leahy (80-2-20); Colorado Academy: Cramer (80-0-3).