Chargers claim 5A soccer title

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By Brian Forbes

COMMERCE CITY — When Chatfield coach Brock Blume heard the numbers, he just grinned, laughed and shook his head.

"The M.O. for sure at one point was do the minimum. This minimum was definitely very impressive," he siad.

When senior midfielder Stephanie Rowe heard them, she calmly stated the obvious.

"It’s crazy," Rowe said. "There are no words even for that. It’s just amazing."

The top-seeded and unbeaten Chargers won their third Class 5A state girls soccer title Wednesday with a 1-0 victory over Air Academy at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The goal, from senior Callie Hancock just before the hour mark, was more than enough with All-Colorado goalkeeper Alyssa Gillmore in net and the Chatfield defense in front of her.

The numbers that amazed Blume and Rowe: The victory was the 15th shutout of the season and sixth in a row for the Chargers. They didn’t give up a goal in five playoff games, outscoring their opponents 11-0. The Chargers gave up just five goals all season.

The numbers for Gillmore get even better. The Arizona State-bound senior was in goal for just four of those goals, and one was a penalty kick against Cherry Creek. That means just three goals in open play were scored against the Chargers’ first team.

And that, folks, is, well, crazy.

"I can’t take all the credit for it," said Gillmore, who made one save but came of her line several times to snuff out any danger. "I definitely have all my defenders up there with me. It’s definitely good to look up there and see zero, that means I’m doing everything I can to keep my team in the game."

The Chargers, who won titles in 2004 and 1996, finish their season 19-0-1. The only blemish was a 1-1 tie against Pine Creek, here at the spacious home of the Colorado Rapids.

The Chargers made the green acres look even bigger on Wednesday as they played a strong possession game, controlled the tempo and generated numerous scoring chances. Rowe and Hancock were the engine for Chatfield’s attack, which allowed players such as Kelly McGrath, Geneva Gray and Kaitlyn Basset to unlock their creativity and stretch the Kadets’ defense.

"I actually felt more comfortable in this game than the two or three before," Blume said.

The Chargers outshot the Kadets 7-1, and survived – yet again – despite squandering a few strong scoring chances.

Hancock’s goal was a product of Gray’s well-timed through-ball, and Hancock’s speed. The senior forward charged down the right side, leaving her defender in her wake and took a few touches on the ball. Hancock’s last touch loaded the ball to her powerful right foot and gave her enough time to look up and see the space open next to Kadets’ standout goalie Sarah Tanous.

"I just put it away," Hancock said. "Speed is obviously something I’m good with."

The goal, in the 58th minute, meant the Chargers needed to hold the lead for 22 minutes. The frantic Kadets did not register a shot on goal in that span and the Chargers never let them own the run of play.

In the first 5A state championship played at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the Chargers took their trophy up into the concourse where they could celebrate with their friends and family and where their screams could echo even better.

For seniors Shianna Falk, Kelsi Latham, Anna Lowe, Sara Sheets, Kailey Bucher, injured striker Sarah Schmeda and backup goalkeeper Natalie D’Adamio, it was the culmination of four amazing years, and banishing a four-year hex of not advancing past the state quarterfinals.

It was an amazing season. The kind you just smile, laugh and shake your head at.