LONGMONT — Mead sophomore Averi Williams set up her free kick from outside the goal box right at the 3-yard line. Instead of passing it further infield, she opted to take the shot from that far corner.
The ball flew over the top of Centaurus keeper Page Sanchez’s head and landed in the back right corner of the net.
That first goal in the 22nd minute of a high-intensity, midfield-centric match ended the longest unbeaten streak in Class 4A girls soccer as the third-ranked Warriors fell to 13-1 on the season with a 2-0 final on Monday night. That unblemished record was bound to end eventually. Sanchez was just glad it happened during the last week of the regular season.
“I think it was their total aggressiveness. They didn’t let us catch a breath a lot of the times, so I think we held them pretty good,” Sanchez said. “I hope it will give us drive now that we’ve lost a game. I hope we rebound from this and I hope it just gives us the fire to keep going. I think we were starting to get a little too confident in ourselves, so I think it was good to just ground us and help us prepare to face the toughest teams in the state when we go to playoffs.”
Coming into the matchup, the Warriors boasted the third-best schedule and record in the classification, according to CHSAA’s RPI rankings. The Mavericks, who now sit at 10-3-1, were ranked No. 11.
Even though this Mead team has seen some growing pains, especially at the beginning of the season, head coach Shane Adler is thrilled to see his Mavericks peak at just the right time. After all, they just have one game left until the playoffs begin.
“There were 10 solid minutes there where they were putting pressure on us and our defense handled it well,” he said. “We didn’t panic. We stayed calm. I think that’s just us growing as a team. Our midfield and our defense are strong and they’re young. … It helps to have Haley Williams up with her speed to stretch the defense out. I think they’re gelling at the right time, they’re finding the right weight on their passes and the defense is strong.”
After Williams put the Mavericks up early, freshman defender Katy Adler decided that wasn’t enough. She wanted to give her girls a nice cushion, so she took a clear shot from about 20 yards out in the 49th minute. The ball just barely squeaked by Sanchez, hit the post and ricocheted behind her and past the goal line.
The Mavericks took advantage of a Warrior team that was missing its top scorer in Nyah Ringer, who has 15 goals on the year, as well as Sydney Cheesman, who’s added six more.
“(Mead) definitely was a very good, aggressive unit that played well,” Centaurus head coach Mario Bezzina said. “Equally, the effect was that we were not our full team today. We had some elements missing and obviously, we win as a team and we lose as a team. We had two girls out of town who couldn’t play, so that affects the flow of our game. Hats off to Mead. They definitely played a solid game and they took their chances.”
Now, both teams will begin to prepare for what the playoffs may bring as they wrap up their regular season on Wednesday. Neither game will be easy, as Centaurus heads to No. 2 Windsor and Mead will host an Erie team that’s sitting just outside of the CHSAANow.com Class 4A top 10 at No. 11.
Time will tell where each squad lands when CHSAA releases its playoff brackets on Sunday, but one thing is certain — 4A soccer better watch out for what the Warriors and Mavericks will bring to the pitch in the postseason.
“We have one game left of this season and we were shooting for two home games at the beginning of playoffs. Knowing that we just beat this team gives us the biggest confidence boost,” Katy Adler said. “This was a dream for us to go to playoffs this year and it’s happening.”