The Highlands Ranch-Standley Lake game proved to be a tough, physical battle from the opening kickoff to the final buzzer and both teams showed their defensive strengths that limited the shots on goal. The scoreless tie was broken with 6:15 left in …
The Highlands Ranch-Standley Lake game proved to be a tough, physical battle from the opening kickoff to the final buzzer and both teams showed their defensive strengths that limited the shots on goal. The scoreless tie was broken with 6:15 left in the game when Sophia Shepherd put the ball into the net as the Falcons won the game, 1-0, on March 11.
“We are a very young team this season with talented, speedy freshmen, sophomores and juniors plus good senior leadership,” Falcons coach Spencer Ward said. “This is my second year as head coach. Last year was our building year and this year we changed just about everything including formations and playing style, so the girls will have more fun playing soccer.”
He said another change is the home game location. In past seasons, the Falcons played home game on the turf at Shea Stadium, but this year all home games are played on the grass field at the high school.
“We have strong fan support and we decided to bring our home games to our home field here at the high school,” he said.
The fact that the game remained scoreless for almost 72 minutes doesn't mean there were not a couple shots by both teams that almost went in. There was a shot that hit the crossbar, a shot that hit the post plus aggressive saves by both goalies.
The winning goal came when sophomore Maddyson Briggs won a loose ball on the Falcon side of midfield and dribbled a short distance before sending a pass to Sophia Shepherd. The junior midfielder out-maneuvered a couple defenders as she pushed the ball down the left side of the field. She cut toward the goal and drilled a low, line-drive shot that got past the goalie and went into the net for the 1-0 advantage that won the game.
Throughout the game, as one team sought to mount a successful attack the other team moved quickly to challenge the player with the ball. Collisions were frequent and often resulted with players from one team or both teams going to the ground. According to team statistics, the Falcons took a total of 31 shots and 16 of those shots were on the net. Avery VanderVen spearheaded the Highlands Ranch attack as she took 12 shots and six of them were on net, while teammate Sarah Baird shot the ball six times and four of the shots were on goal.
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Shepherd took a total of two shots and both were on goal, including the shot that she drove past the goalie that was the margin of victory in the Falcons 1-0 win.
“The game started off slowly but I think we did a lot better job as the game progressed as we moved around, passing the ball and mounting attacks,” Shepherd said after the game. “It was a physical game, which was OK. We are an aggressive team and when we play an aggressive team we don't shy away from the challenge.”
She said she tried playing basketball when she was younger but quickly decided soccer would be her only competitive sport.
“I really liked playing the ball with your feet; that I fell in love with,” she said. “I like to ski but my competitive sport is basketball all year.”
Ward said he expects the Falcons' strong girls soccer program to continue.
“We are a young team so we expect to have some talented players back next year,” he said. “We also have a good feeder system that stretches down into the middle school. I have met a number of this year's eighth-graders so I expect we will have a number of talented freshmen soccer players coming to us next season.”