Jags finish soccer season second

Posted 11/12/09

In a season in which the Rock Canyon boys soccer team wasn’t even expected to make the Class 4A playoffs, the Jaguars made the championship finals …

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Jags finish soccer season second


In a season in which the Rock Canyon boys soccer team wasn’t even expected to make the Class 4A playoffs, the Jaguars made the championship finals and didn’t go home until an overtime goal ended everything.

No. 6-seeded Rock Canyon, the defending 4A state champions from 2008, fell shy of a title repeat after losing 1-0 in overtime to Niwot, the No. 4 seed in this year’s state tournament, Nov. 11 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City. The game was a rematch of the 2008 finals in which the Jags beat Niwot 3-0.

Rock Canyon had its work cut out for it before they even took the field at Dick’s. Niwot returned 10 of its 11 players who were in the championship finals last year. In addition, Santiago Velez has been a dangerous player for the Cougars all season. Velez had the title game’s overtime goal in the 89th minute.

Jags coach Sean Henning said, “We did a great job of keeping track of [Velez] until his final shot, cause I don’t think he did much up until that point. They’re a defensive team, but a good team.”

The most amazing part of the Jaguars’ 2009 roster was that Henning said he didn’t expect the team to even return to the playoffs with so many freshmen and sophomores in town. However, the group still made another state finals appearance.

“They really stepped it up by beating Cheyenne Mountain [in the quarterfinals] at their place and beating Mullen [in the semifinals]. And Mullen is a really good team,” Henning said. “Unfortunately, we just came up one goal short of winning it all.”

From last year’s Jaguars team, Henning had eight players return, four of which were starters. One of those starters went down in the first week of the new season with a broken leg. He didn’t return. Two others were defensive starters. The coach was left to bring up some junior varsity talent that stepped up. However, that left Rock Canyon without as much depth as last year.

One reason the Jaguars remained highly competitive, however, was senior goalkeeper Jacob Lissek, who was key in the win over Mullen in the semis. Lissek came up with at least three saves through the second half of the finals match worthy of making a highlight reel, which kept Rock Canyon in the hunt.

“He was the championship game’s MVP,” Henning said of Lissek. “For basically 90 minutes, he was it. He’s what kept us in the game. We obviously had some quality opportunities we didn’t score on. We had two shots that went to their keeper, but our real quality opportunities missed the goal completely.”

Endurance soon became a factor for Canyon as well. Henning said the Jags controlled the first half of the title game, but they faded in the second.

“On that gigantic field, they kind of wore out,” he said.

For the future of the Jaguars, they expect to have three starters return, as well as three from the varsity bench from the regular season. An additional four from the playoff roster should also be back. Henning predicts the team will be young with at most eight seniors and its quality freshmen and sophomore class from this season.

“We’ll have the talent, but it’ll be a matter of how quick the younger players will learn to play at this level,” the coach said.

Rock Canyon ended the season with a 12-6-2 overall record. Next season, the Jags remain in the 5A Continental League. Given the school’s present enrollment, they should jump to a 5A post-season unless the state’s classification enrollment limits are changed.

“Not a single person will be back from that state title team, so moving up to 5A will be interesting,” Henning said.


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