Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
DENVER — Many of Broomfield’s top girls soccer players were relegated to the sideline Thursday night in Denver as the defending champs continued its push — or maybe hobble — toward spring’s ultimate prize.
New heroes emerged because of it.
Kayla Loughrey, a defender thrust into a forward position out of necessity, did more than fill a void at the Class 5A state semifinals at the University of Denver. Her overtime winner at CIBER Field sent the dog-eared Eagles past Columbine, 2-1, and put them one win away from repeating in gold.
“It was a big responsibility and very nerve-racking because it’s a position I never played or anything,” said Loughrey, who was chased by her teammates in a flood of glee after her first goal of the season. “I just needed to believe in myself.”
On the winning strike, Loughrey took a pass inside the box from Michaela McGowan and ripped the walk-off winner into the top corner of the net in the 86th minute.
It capped off a late rally from the second-seeded Eagles (16-2), who trailed in the waning minutes of regulation to the sixth-ranked Rebels (14-4-1) only to net an equalizer with 3:04 remaining, then the winner 5:36 into OT.
“With all these injuries and fatigue, it has just been a next-player-up mentality and they just dig in and believe in our resiliency,” coach Jim Davidson said. “I can’t believe how mentally strong they are and how much grit they possess.”
He sighed in reflection, smiled: “God these girls are tough. I just love them. They’re awesome.”
Despite controlling play most of the way, Davidson’s injury-riddled team found itself on the ropes late in regulation, time bleeding away.
Columbine senior Riley Kaali-Nagy delivered what looked to be the knockout shot in the 69th minute, a bending chance that curled away from the outstretched arms of her soon-to-be University of Northern Colorado teammate, Dylan Drennan.
Drennan had stopped the Rebels’ best chance before, making a kick-save after Kaali-Nagy fed Taylor Weber in the box in the 13th. But this shot was picturesque.
In front of her, the Eagles responded. Nicky Choren, scoring her second goal of the season, had screened herself up near the close post before finishing Taryn Rea’s brilliant short lob with her head.
It forced overtime for a second straight game for the Eagles, who beat Rock Canyon 2-1 in the quarterfinals Monday. Four days ago, Reagan Kotschau’s penalty kick winner came in the 85th.
“Yesterday, our coach talked to us about not getting worried or getting too stressed,” Choren said. “Just do our job and I feel like we did that.”
The Eagles face the winner of No. 1 Valor Christian and No. 4 Grandview, which kicked off at DU past 8:30 p.m.
The 5A state title game will be played at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park May 25 at 8 p.m.