Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer
LAFAYETTE — Dawson’s immaculate shutout streak over the Class 2A field finally came to an end Saturday morning as part of an unsettled start to its state tournament first-round matchup.
The response was swift.
Minutes following the first goal allowed to a team inside its classification this spring, Degen Miller scored a pair of expert goals within moments of each other and the No. 2 seed Mustangs answered matter-of-factly in an 11-2 win over seventh-seeded Front Range Christian to advance to the bracket’s semifinals round.
Dawson (10-1) had outscored 2A teams 83-0, and 2A/3A teams 95-0, before the Falcons (8-3) cashed in on Eden McKay’s goal in the 17th minute. The Mustangs followed it up with nine straight goals.
“Playoff games are different,” Dawson coach David Criswell said. “I think the team feels pressure after coming in with such a successful season. And we knew we’d have some goals scored on us, and seeing how they’d react is exactly what we wanted to see.”
Unexpectedly tied at 1-apiece midway through the opening half, Miller answered on a long free kick in 20th, and followed it up almost immediately with a tough-angle chance in the box to make it 3-1.
Kate Epstein, who earlier scored in the 8th, added another beauty that sailed just over the keeper’s fingertips to help push the lead to 5-1 at half. And as part of the finishing touches, Epstein tapped another pillow-soft touch — this one, though hitting crossbar — but Miller poked in the rebound header to make it 10-1 in the 58th.
Front Range scored again before Miller tallied one more in the closing minute.
Miller finished with six goals to extend her lead on the 2A goals leaderboard, while Epstein finished with her second hat trick of the season. Lauren Muniz and Elise Freedman also scored.
It was Dawson’s second win over the Falcons this season and the sixth straight dating back to 2016. The Mustangs scored 11 goals in the opening half against them on May 22 to notch one of seven 10-goal, mercy-rule victories this season.
“That was a situation we hadn’t seen that we were tied 1-1 (against a 2A team),” said Miller, whose team’s only defeat came to 4A Northridge last week. “We want this so badly, so we all realized that we needed to turn it on and get some goals in.”
Dawson has reached the finals in every season the 2A classification has existed in girls soccer, and is now a win away from making it six straight.
In the semifinals Wednesday, it will host No. 3 Denver Christian, which beat No. 6 Rye 5-2 in Round 1.
The Mustangs beat Denver Christian in the 2018 finals before falling to the Thunder in PKs in the 2019 title game. They also beat them 9-0 earlier this season.
“Getting the quarterfinals out of the way, we still don’t let it get to our heads,” Epstein said. “We know how to keep composed and just play our game.”
Saturday spelled the 18th game Miller has scored three or more goals in her high school career. The senior, who is committed to the University of Virginia, has a 2A-most 35 goals this season. And despite having last spring canceled at the hands of the pandemic, she has 91 in her career.