DENVER — The Angels were merciful May 5. But only for about 50 minutes.
That’s when Denver East finally put the ball into the back of the Columbine goal to usher the Rebels out of the first round of the Class 5A state soccer playoffs.
The 2-0 defeat, however, appeared to be headed in a much different direction early on.
After giving up a quick corner kick, the Angels dominated the first half. They kissed the ball off the Rebels’ goal twice, hit the crossbar once and forced three saves from backup goalkeeper Bri Klomp.
Yet for all the things that went wrong, the score was still tied at halftime. Great news for a second-half team such as the Rebels.
“We had some luck on our side” Rebels coach Brian Todd said. “In that first half, we get to 0-0 and I think (East) is becoming a bit anxious, a bit frustrated.”
Not for long.
The Angels tore through Columbine with a long and fluid counterattack to break the deadlock in the 51st minute, and they put the game away eight minutes later with a penalty kick.
The Rebels never found that extra gear that had carried them to previous victories. They never played with their youthful abandon. They never showed off their stuff.
Their transition passing rarely materialized. Their long passes went for naught. Their short passing game was off the mark.
“It’s been kind of hard for us this season to link our plays and transitioning to that forward, because we’ve got really fast forwards,” Columbine senior midfielder Kate McMullen said.
The Rebels forced just two saves from East goalkeeper Jenna Greenwood.
“We didn’t come alive … for some reason we were in a defensive shell today,” Todd said.
Columbine’s best scoring chance came two minutes before halftime when Kristen Hamilton broke free, raced on goal and got Greenwood to come off her line and into no man’s land. Hamilton’s shot, however, rolled just wide.
The Rebels had trouble with East all-state midfielder Emily Gosche, who settled and distributed well for the Angels, and the pace of the Angels’ wingers. Gosche set up the opening goal with a great pass down the middle, and she earned and converted the penalty kick after junior Caitlyn Reichlin rode her to the ground in the penalty area.