Purists probably will disagree, but playoff soccer isn't always particularly pretty.
Press for a goal early, then protect the lead at all costs. The strategy wins games – and championships – so there is no debating the results, though.
As the state semifinals for all three classifications take place Saturday, know that quality defense – sprinkled with just enough offense - again will be at a premium. The Class 5A final four will be played at Englewood High School, while 4A and 3A will take over All-City Stadium.Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village)
(13-4-1), at No. 5, is the highest seed remaining in the big-school field, where a new champion is assured. Last year's titlist, Mountain Vista (Highlands Ranch), lost on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals to Rock Canyon (Highlands Ranch)
, which is Cherry Creek's opponent Saturday.In a 1-0 quarterfinals win against Columbine (Littleton)
, Cherry Creek epitomized the mentality of playoff soccer. The Bruins were aggressive in the first half offensively, and finally were rewarded with a penalty kick that junior Lizzy Raben
Raben was awarded the kick after standout Essence LaNeir
was taken down in the box, a result of her consistent effort in the first half. LaNeir just missed twice – once when her shot hit the crossbar, the other on a sliding stop by the keeper – and helped the Bruins make repeated charges.
"We keep on teams with our speed (offensively)," said the elusive LaNeir, who has 21 goals this season. "(Once we got the goal), we shut down on defense to make sure they didn't get any one on ones with our keeper."
After Cherry Creek secured the lead, it stressed defense in the second half. The Bruins didn't attempt a shot on goal after intermission, while weathering Columbine's measured attempts to gain the equalizer. Cherry Creek has not allowed a goal in three playoff games.
"Our keeper (Alex Kahalley
) was incredible, the defense was really strong," Raben said about the Columbine game, but which could be applied to the Bruins overall in the playoffs. "It was an awesome team effort. I'm so proud of my team."
No. 15 Fairview (Boulder)
is coming off a pair of 1-0 playoff wins, the latest against Heritage (Littleton), and will meet Front Range League rival Fort Collins)
in the semifinals. Fort Collins won the regular-season meeting 1-0 on March 22.
Fairview advanced on a goal by defender Berkley Gamble
, scored in the game's 77th minute. Like Cherry Creek, the Knights (11-5-2) also have not allowed a goal in the postseason.
"It's really exciting for our team going forward because no one thought we could do this, and we've never had such a low seed for the tournament since I've been here," Gamble said. "To make it to the semis is quite an accomplishment, and we hope to keep going."In Class 4A, defending champion and ninth-seeded Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch)
is still alive, courtesy of a 1-0 win against No. 1 seed Cheyenne Mountain (Colorado Springs) in the quarterfinals.
A goal by standout
, a Texas Tech recruit, was the difference and sent the Eagles (11-4-3) to the final four for the fourth consecutive season. Beckie has tallied 24 goals this season, the third-best total in 4A.
The semifinal foursome has a familiar feel, as Green Mountain (Lakewood)
and Palmer Ridge (Monument)
also return for the second time in as many seasons. Air Academy rounds out the field.
Green Mountain, the second seed, advanced with a 3-2 overtime win against D'Evelyn (Denver) behind the hat trick from the classification's second-leading scorer in Karlea Fehr
(28 goals). Meanwhile, No. 3 Palmer Ridge blanked Pueblo South. Palmer Ridge also has not allowed a playoff goal.The Class 3A brackets received a jolt
in the quarterfinals Thursday when eighth-seeded Colorado Academy (Denver)
eliminated No. 1 Holy Family (Broomfield) 2-1. In the semifinals, the Mustangs (12-4-2) will face St. Mary's (Colorado Springs)
, which is in the final four for the fifth time in six years. St. Mary's (16-2-0) ousted Manitou Springs 5-0 to advance.
There also will be a new champion, as in a rematch of last season's 3A title game, Peak to Peak (Lafayette)
returned the favor by besting defending champion The Classical Academy (Colorado Springs) 3-0 in the quarterfinals. Peak to Peak (15-3-0) will meet second-seeded Faith Christian (Arvada)
(16-2-1), which has yet to allow a goal in the postseason.MaxPreps' Paul Willis contributed to this report.