Published: May 11, 2014
A few days after Doherty appeared to take a giant step forward with a win against rival Liberty, one that probably meant the difference between making or missing the postseason, the Spartans fell back into old form and played like a mess against Class 4A Palmer Ridge to end the regular season.
It seems like so far away now.
This was the same team that crushed higher-seed George Washington a few days later in the first round of the Class 5A postseason, the same team that then stunned the soccer community with a program-defining win over top-ranked Fossil Ridge in the second round.
This was a team that went from borderline postseason qualifiers to state title contenders in the same time it took the Spartans to drive to their first two postseason matchups.
What happened you may wonder? Well, it appears all Spartans coach Eryn Gallagher had to do was take away her team's soccer balls for a practice.
On the Saturday before the first round of the postseason, Gallagher sat her team in a circle on the high school's soccer field and went around to each of the varsity team's 22 players to find out why they felt this season had been a roller-coaster ride of inconsistency.
The girls simultaneously pulled out pieces of paper they were told to address their concerns on, and went one by one around the circle.
"It was our 'Coming to Jesus' meeting," senior defender Alexis Charles said. "We just went around and shared with each other our concerns and fears - for almost two hours. I, for one, learned I can't always be the type of leader who screams and yells to get the team going. I try to listen now. I'm surrounded by a freshman and junior on defense, and the best way I can help them is listen."
Before this, who knew which Doherty team would show up? In losses, Gallagher was proud of how her team played Pine Creek and Cheyenne Mountain tight at the start of the year, but she couldn't understand why in the next week they fell asleep in wins against Rampart and Coronado.
The fourth-year coach, who has taken the Spartans to three consecutive playoff appearances, soon realized her team was guilty of identity theft.
"We were trying to be the team we were last year," said Gallagher in reference to the 2013 team that made it to the second round before being ousted. "But we weren't that team. We didn't have the same senior captains from that team. We don't have those kinds of vocal leaders this year. We just had to find who we were."
And apparently, once they did, the Spartans took on the role of Cinderella, the Class 5A version of course.
It's been a fairy tale since then. Once they sorted their issues, which ranged from trust concerns to miscommunication, the team jumped all over No. 16 George Washington early in a 4-1 win, and then, Alex Lanning scored and Riley Furbush shut out the top team in 5A, Fossil Ridge, with a 1-0 victory in the second round.
When asked how far this 9-7 team could honestly go, Furbush, a shy freshman at the start of the year, didn't hold anything back.
"I wouldn't call us a team actually, we're a family," the keeper said. "We're a family who are going to the finals."
First though, No. 17 Doherty faces eighth-seeded Columbine on Tuesday in the quarterfinals.