Easy does it for top-ranked UCCS women’s soccer.
The Mountain Lions kicked off what they hope and expect will be a long postseason with a 5-0 RMAC Tournament quarterfinal victory against CSU-Pueblo at Mountain Lion Stadium. They settled down and put away the ThunderWolves with two quick second-half goals.
Sophomore Savannah Mills scored her sixth and jersey-matching seventh goals of the season, one in each half, and UCCS improved to 18-0. It’s the top seed in the tournament and has been the top team in the nation for several weeks.
“Undefeated” is not a forbidden word in the Mountain Lions’ huddle.
“We remind ourselves constantly because we’re really proud of ourselves and how far we’ve come,” Mills said. “But we also don’t take it for granted and know any team out here could beat us, so we play every game like it’s our last.”
UCCS clinched its first-ever RMAC regular-season championship, and is now not only playing for the tournament title, but the right to host an opening round of the NCAA Div. II Tournament.
They made the regular season look easy, winning by large margins and never allowing more than a goal, but Mills called the postseason a “nerve-wracking experience.” Before the game, the Mountain Lions reaffirmed their mission.
“We just stayed united,” Mills said. “We said no matter what, we play for each other.”
Kelsey Lanham and Mills made it 2-0 in the first half, when CSU-Pueblo tested UCCS’ defense and had the majority of its chances.
“I don’t think we played our best soccer in the first half to be honest, but I think we took the wind out of Pueblo’s sails,” coach Sian Hudson said.
UCCS adjusted and put to rest any thought of a comeback, scoring on its first two shots of the second half.
During a furious few minutes, RMAC Freshman of the Year Tanner Sanders was left alone and sent it in low, the Mountain Lions hit the crossbar and finally Mills flicked in a Nicolette Sandoval cross to make it 4-0.
Amelia Junge scored on an innocent-looking late shot that went sideways on Rylie Martin (7 saves) to finish the scoring.
“Overall, I’m really pleased with the girls’ performance,” Hudson said. I think any time you’re in a tournament, especially in a knockout round, (you have to) get the nerves out of the way.”
Sunday’s noon semifinal will be against fourth-seeded Westminster, 2-0 winners over fifth-seeded Regis. If the Mountain Lions win, they’ll host the RMAC championship the following weekend.