Top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Mountain Vista benefited from a close call, and part of Rock Canyon's stretch surge has been keyed by a player who missed 11 games.
Mountain Vista (18-1-0) and Rock Canyon (16-1-1) have qualified for an All-Continental League Class 5A girls state championship soccer game May 22 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.
There is an element of revenge for both teams.
Mountain Vista beat Rock Canyon 2-0 in a Continental League match April 12, but the Jaguars upset the top-seeded Golden Eagles in a quarterfinal shootout during last season's state playoffs.
The Golden Eagles' only loss this season was a 1-0 setback to Pine Creek the night after the victory over Rock Canyon. It was the third game in three nights and Mountain Vista didn't play several regulars. It was the closest game for coach Theresa Echtermeyer's team until a 3-2 quarterfinal victory over Fort Collins May 15 at Shea Stadium.
Megan Massey scored twice for Mountain Vista against Fort Collins, but it took Gabbi Miranda's goal on a penalty kick with 7:35 remaining in the game for the Golden Eagles to escape.
Katy Couperus, the Lambkins' leading scorer, was the keeper on the penalty kick as she briefly replaced starting goalie Jordan Leone, who was forced to leave the game with an injury.
“It did us good,” said Miranda of the narrow win. “It put us in a situation where we had to find the courage in ourselves and in each other. It was a game where we were tested and it was the first game where it was back and forth. It gave us a nice wake-up call. Not every game is a walk in the park.”
In a semifinal game against Fossil Ridge May 18 at Denver's All-City Stadium, Mountain Vista found itself behind 1-0 after only 101 seconds, but the Golden Eagles responded with three goals in 6:10 and advanced to the championship game with a 6-2 win over the Sabercats.
Mountain Vista, which has made the state playoffs nine consecutive seasons, won the state championship in 2005 and 2011 and used two goals from freshman Mallory Pugh to help usher the Golden Eagles into another title match. Massey also had a goal in the semifinal win.
“Mallory is a special player,” said Echtermeyer. “She hadn't had a goal in a while and I sort of predicted that she was going to unleash. The Fort Collins game put us through some tough times and that was good for us. That lit a fire for us.
“We definitely would have been disappointed not to make it to the championship game but we didn't count on it. There are a lot of things about being the No. 1 ranked team, which we've been two years in a row, that hovers over our heads, but we don't think about that really. We just think about wanting to take care of the opponent today.”
Mountain Vista goalie Danielle Cushing suffered a concussion when she dove for a ball during warm-ups and hit her head on the goal post. She went to the hospital and Torrell Stewart, who usually plays one half and Cushing the other, played the entire game against Fossil Ridge.
Rock Canyon, a semifinal loser last season, has taken care of 11 straight opponents since its setback to Mountain Vista. The Jaguars blanked Liberty 4-0 May 15 at Shea Stadium and then shut out Legacy 2-0 in the semifinals May 18 at All-City Stadium.
Five different players accounted for the Rock Canyon goals in the two games, with freshman Kaycie Young scoring a goal in both the quarterfinal and semifinal matches.
Erin Webb, who suffered an ankle injury in the first game of the season, had an assist against Liberty and tallied Rock Canyon's first goal against Legacy. She has five goals and two assists in the six games since returning from the injury.
“I sprained my ankle and it was pretty bad,” said Webb, who will play for Missouri next season. “I really wanted to play but I had confidence in my team. I knew they were going to do well and step up. My ankle is fine now. The whole season we've been working to get back and have a chance to win state.”
Rock Canyon coach Matt Henbest says Webb has played an important role since her return.
“She's scored a goal in every game but one since she has been back,” he said. “It's been a key component of our resurgence.”
Rock Canyon's semifinal game was delayed 30 minutes after halftime for a lightning delay and another 20 minutes late in the game when Legacy's Brooke Williams was hit hard by a ball in the face and was transported to the hospital.
“We've been talking about focus being such an important part of the game,” Henbest said. “That bit of practice helped. During the playoffs we've scored in the first five, six or seven minutes of the games and that's helped us be able to take control.
“We're playing our best soccer at the right time. It was in the back of our minds that we might get a chance to see Vista again.”