If only the seeding was used as criteria for deciding which teams play for a state championship, then the Class 4A state girls soccer tournament has gone according to plan.
But even as top-seeded Windsor
prepares to face No. 2 Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch)
at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, there is always more to the story than the number in front of the team. The Wizards (18-0-1) are playing at DSG for the first time after being eliminated in the semifinals in each of the three previous seasons. Valor Christian (12-3-3) lost 15 players from last year's squad that fell in the semifinals.
Windsor coach Mario Garcia said it's an opportunity for redemption for both teams. Valor Christian coach Brian Shultz understands what his coaching counterpart means, and knows the Eagles have a tall task ahead of them.
"We have high respect for what (Mario's) done at Windsor," Shultz said. "I know they're hungry for a title, and we're just honored to play against a team like that. We'll give it our best on Wednesday."
After the 4A game on Wednesday, 5A closes the season out with a battle between No. 1 Grandview (Aurora)
and No. 2 Broomfield
– once again, the two squads that came up short in the 2017 semifinals.
Perhaps none of the eight remaining programs has overcome the obstacles that faced Valor Christian at the start of the season. The Eagles graduated nine seniors from last year's squad, and seven of those were committed to play in college. The team also lost six more players to the inaugural season of the U.S. Soccer Girls Development Academy; a number of athletes had to decide between playing for their club or their high school.
"I think it means a lot to these girls. They've put it all on the line," Shultz said after Valor Christian held off
Glenwood Springs 2-1 in the semis on Saturday at Legacy Stadium in Aurora. "With those 15 gone, the next group just stepped right in and I think they're operating out of a long tradition of Valor teams that are just hard workers."
Valor Christian scored 70 goals in 2017, and of those, only one player who scored – Kaitlynn Derani
– returned to the team. The Eagles have scored only 35 times this spring, but a strong defense, backed by all three of the team's returning goalkeepers from last spring, has allowed only 18 scores.
"We're not a very flashy team, but we're very gritty," Shultz said. "Most of our goals have come that way this year."
Case in point: Sophomore Kaleigh Kreimeyer
, who scored only two goals during the regular season, has found the back of the net on five occasions in the playoffs. That included the first one Saturday.
"Those goals are team goals. There's a lot of build-up that goes into those goals, but she's figuring it out," Shultz said. "She's a crafty forward and a great athlete, and she's a gamer. When things are on the line, she's been coming up big."
Senior Alexandra Daws
, who is tied with Kreimeyer for second on the team with seven goals scored, stepped into the starting keeper role in May because of an injury to Mackenzie Egan
. Daws has allowed only three goals in five games, just two of which have come in the postseason.
Windsor, on the other hand, has outscored opponents 114-10 through 19 games. The team's only blemish this season came in a 2-2 tie with Silver Creek (Longmont) on March 20 – on Saturday, the Wizards defeated those same Raptors 2-1 to reach the title game.
Senior Chaynee Kingsbury
leads Windsor with 32 goals and 25 assists and junior Abby Gearhart
has added 31 goals and 16 assists. Senior keeper Michaela Moran
has allowed only five goals in nearly 1,100 minutes in the net.
While Valor Christian has the experience factor as a program in playing for state titles – the Eagles are making their fifth appearance in 10 years, the most recent coming in 2016 – Shultz is quick to point out that doesn't amount to much with so many new faces.
"Every team's journey is different. This year's team just keeps wowing us," Shultz said. "I'll tell them to go and do what they've done all year. They keep finding a way, let's find another way."
Here is an overview of the other three state championship games headed into Tuesday's title contests:
No. 1 Grandview (16-0-3) vs. No. 2 Broomfield (18-0-1), 7 p.m., Wednesday
This is a rematch of the 2015 championship game, won by Grandview. The Wolves followed that up with a championship in 2016 before losing in a shootout to Mountain Vista (Highlands Ranch) in the 2017 semifinals.
Grandview avenged that loss with a 4-2 victory against the Golden Eagles in the semifinals Saturday. Seniors Natalie Beckman
and Morgan Szarka
, who have signed to play Division I soccer next season, have combined to score 22 goals, and junior Kendra Gipson
has 12. Keepers Madison Livingston
and Reagan Mccombs
have combined to allow only eight goals this spring.
Broomfield is making its fourth finals appearance in six years, though two of those came in 4A. The Eagles haven't won a state championship since 2006.
After rallying to force overtime in a victory against Columbine (Littleton) in the quarterfinals, Broomfield came from behind again Saturday with a 3-2 overtime victory over Rock Canyon (Highlands Ranch) in the semis. Senior Hailey Stodden
scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner on a penalty kick in OT.
Stodden – a University of Utah commit – leads the team with 32 goals and has 10 assists. Sophomore Mallory Mooney
has 15 goals and a team-high 12 assists. Senior keeper Grace Fuller
has allowed nine goals in 18 games.
No. 1 Jefferson Academy (15-2-1) vs. No. 3 Kent Denver (16-1-1), 7 p.m., Tuesday
Last spring marked the first time that a team from the 3A Metro League didn't claim the state championship after The Academy defeated Peak to Peak (Lafayette) in a shootout.
That won't be the case this season. The Jaguars and Sun Devils will both represent the Metro in a rematch of an April 14 league game, won by Kent Denver 1-0.
Jefferson Academy is making its second title-game appearance in four years after losing to Colorado Academy (Denver) in 2015. The Jaguars received a late goal from Kristen Capan
to defeat Aspen 1-0 in Saturday's semifinals, and sophomore Brooklynn Kirkpatrick
recorded nine saves. Eighteen players have scored for the team this spring, led by senior Rachel Schlagel
's 14 goals and 14 assists. Junior Mira Houck
owns 12 goals, and Kirkpatrick has allowed only eight goals in nearly 1,200 minutes of action.
Kent Denver shared the league title with Colorado Academy but had the tiebreaker by virtue of a victory against the Mustangs during the regular season. The Sun Devils repeated that feat Saturday with a 1-0 semifinal triumph on a goal from Emma Billings
This is the second title-game trip in three seasons for Kent Denver, which defeated Colorado Academy for the crown in 2016. The team is riding a streak of 11 consecutive shutouts, and a trio of goalkeepers has allowed only four scores in 18 games – including Mika Fisher
going the distance Saturday.
No. 1 Dawson School (15-2) vs. No. 2 Denver Christian (12-5), 5 p.m., Tuesday
These two teams are the only ones making a repeat appearance in the championship game. Denver Christian defeated the Mustangs 4-3 last May to claim the school's fourth title overall.
There have only been three championship games since 2A got its start in 2015, and Dawson has played in each of them. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, they've come up short in all three contests. The team is hoping to reverse its fortunes Tuesday, backed by an offense that scored 91 goals this spring. Dawson defeated Denver Christian 4-1 during the regular season, and is coming off a 3-0 semifinal rout of Crested Butte on May 16.
Four players have scored at least 11 goals for Dawson, led by freshman Degen Miller's
25. Senior Liv Cramer
has 16 goals and 12 assists, and junior keeper Kate Gallop
has recorded 11 shutouts.
Four of Denver Christian's five losses came to 3A teams. The Thunder had to hold off Fountain Valley 3-2 in the semifinals, as senior Miranda Kortenhoeven
led the way with a goal and two assists.
Sophomore Kara Amidon
leads the team with 23 goals and has 14 assists to go along with that. Kortenhoeven has added 20 goals and 15 assists.