May 12, 2012
St. Mary’s girls' soccer team traveled to the state 3A finals four straight seasons from 2007-2010 before taking a vacation last season.
The Pirates look ready to return. St. Mary’s bombarded the Coal Ridge Titans, 5-1, Saturday in the second round of state playoffs. The score is deceptive. The Pirates (15-2) hit the post three times and failed to convert on several Beckham-like crosses by junior Nicole Niles.
This was a rout, no doubt, but it could have risen to the level of annihilation. I’ve been watching the Pirates for years. This edition boasts the most balance, depth, size, offensive firepower and, maybe, the most hunger.
Coach Gregg Braha grimaced when he recalled last season’s failure to compete in the finals. The Pirates lost in the quarterfinals to eventual state finalist Peak to Peak.
“It’s an expectation more than a tradition,” Braha said of playing in the semifinals. “And it’s really more than an expectation. We don’t just expect to play in that game. We expect to win.”
This makes sense. The Pirates are 4-0 in state semis since 2007.
Coal Ridge feature strong, quality players, and the Titans (12-2-3) played with extreme effort.
“They were very physical,” said St. Mary’s senior Dawn Reachard in one of the bigger understatements you will hear this month.
But the Titans had no chance. Reachard launched a 25-yard rocket into the back of the net with 26:39 left in the first half. Seven minutes later, sophomore Erin Geiger went on a spectacular 70-yard run, eluding two Titan defenders with nifty footwork. Geiger was ready to skip past the last line of defense, but the Titans' Kayla Warren tripped her in the box.
Seconds later, Geiger’s penalty kick gave St. Mary’s a 2-0 lead. It was over.
The Pirates aren’t satisfied. This is a young team. Only five players on the current squad were members of the 2010 team that Christina Whitelaw led to the state crown.
Braha has made sure the players who weren’t there in 2010 have heard about all the fun of competing in 3A’s ultimate girls' soccer game.
“We all want to get there,” Geiger said. “That’s our focus. The older players keep telling me there is no greater feeling than being in the title game.”
Don’t get the wrong idea. The Pirates are not assuming anything. They realize they likely will face Holy Family, the state’s top seed, in the semis, if they travel that far. The Pirates play Manitou Springs in the quarterfinals Thursday in what promises to be a close, intense game.
The Pirates know, after last season’s crushing defeat, a march to the title game is not a given. They’ll have to earn it.
But the Pirates are filled with hope, and this is deserved hope.
“There’s a sense of confidence,” Reachard said, “and a sense of everybody wanting it and being willing to fight for it.”