Published: May 14, 2013
HIGHLANDS RANCH - Air Academy keeper Ally Neary was nearly perfect Tuesday night in the 4A girls' soccer quarterfinals.
In fact, she'd been nearly perfect all postseason.
But after about 270 minutes of shutout soccer in these playoffs, Valor Christian's Amanda Lopez stuck her head on a looping pass from Chauncey Billups' daughter Cydney to score with 27 seconds left in the second 15-minute overtime to eliminate the 4A defending champion Kadets.
It was payback for Valor which lost 1-0 to Air Academy last season in the 4A semifinals.
But Tuesday it didn't come easy for the hosting, fourth-seeded Eagles. And perhaps it didn't come fairly to the No. 5 Kadets.
In the second OT, the clock was stopped prematurely and Air Academy was called offside on a controversial call with 45 seconds left that eventually set up the game-winning goal.
"My girls played with a lot of heart tonight and they didn't deserve to lose this way," said Kadets coach Nancy Sibley, who could barely muster any words after the game. "(The officiating) was miserable, but what are you going to do? Nothing you can do about it. We needed to find the back of the net and we didn't."
Earlier in regulation, Neary made back-to-back saves on two rocket shots from Billups with less than 10 minutes in regulation.
Then in the first overtime she stoned Hannah Hommel on a 10-yard, point-blank shot, before robbing Brooke Sewell on a breakaway chance minutes later.
"I felt it was one of my best games," Neary said. "The defense was great in front of me and we just fought all game long. I was happy to give us a chance."
But after a free kick with 45 seconds left in the second overtime, Billups battled with two Air Academy defenders before she played point guard and sent Lopez a Chauncey-like assist at the net.
"I knew Cydney would get it to me," said a hobbled Lopez, who was trampled by an overjoyed hosting mob of fans after the game. "I just wanted to make sure I finished it. And it bounced right to me and I just forced it in."
Neary and the rest of her team sat in disbelief as they watched Valor celebrate.
"Our defense broke down a bit after a couple calls down the stretch, and we let one slide," Neary said. "We are disappointed right now. We can't believe it. This will drive us next year."
Valor faces Cheyenne Mountain in the semis Saturday at Sports Authority Field in Parker. The Eagles beat the Indians in the 4A quarterfinals last season 1-0.