Broomfield - The Classical Academy generated nearly no offense in the first half.
Mikayla Murphy and Hannah Burgo remedied that problem in the second half and the defense tightened when it had to as the No. 8 Titans advanced to the Class 3A semifinals with a 3-2 victory Thursday over No. 1 Jefferson Academy.
Murphy and Burgo scored 48 seconds apart early in the second half to put the Titans ahead 2-1. Murphy's goal came from an absurd angle that saw her simply poke the ball over Jefferson Academy's goalie and into the far side of the net. Burgo scored next. A little over five minutes later, Murphy answered again, this time scoring the eventual game-winner off a rebound.
"The first one, the keeper came out and I noticed the goal was wide open, and I chipped it right over her," Murphy said. "It was a really bad angle but I didn't really have any other option."
On Saturday at All City Stadium, TCA will play the winner between No. 5 Holy Family and No. 13 Kent Denver.
Earlier this season, the Titans (10-6-1) rallied from a 3-1 deficit against the Jaguars (15-3), only to see Jefferson Academy rally for a 5-3 win. That victory, midway through the season, helped land JA the No. 1 seed.
On Thursday, when Mollie Heitman cut the lead to 3-2, TCA was worried, but not overly concerned. The Titans gathered their composure and did anything they could to keep another shot from hitting the net. The Jags rarely threatened over the last 15 minutes.
"We just knew that we had to focus and work together and keep our cool," said central defender Emily Mueller. "We just put that (loss) behind us and knew we needed to look forward."
Titans coach Blake Galvin was impressed with his back line.
"Our defense was just off the charts," Galvin said. "They played fantastic tonight. They stepped when they needed to, they were taking balls to the gut when they needed to, just doing everything right."
The Titans, who graduated 10 seniors last season, return to the semifinals for the second consecutive season. But this collective group, with just four seniors on the roster, showed the ability to adapt and regroup after a poor offensive first half.
"We just talked about how we were playing," Galvin said. "In the first half, it seemed like every time we got the ball we were just kicking it. We talked about settling a little bit more, playing to feet, you know, playing soccer and not just playing kick ball."
After their win over Manitou Springs earlier in the week, the Titans talked openly about being excited when they saw Jefferson Academy in their region of the playoff bracket. They showed why.
"They wanted the rematch," Galvin said. "I think they are now at a point that they are starting to get it in their heads that they can play soccer."
Getting this far isn't all that surprising to the Titans.
"I thought if we worked together and we pushed ourselves to be the best we possibly could be," said Murphy, one of seven sophomores, "I think we could definitely make it to state (finals)."