COMMERCE CITY — Brian Todd knew he had a rock-solid team, a high-end squad capable of winning a 5A Jeffco League title. The Columbine girls soccer head coach also knew that if the Lady Rebels won their conference championship, it could set them up to win state.
Todd has known for a while that Columbine was capable of doing such a thing, though he can’t pinpoint the moment when he had that realization. But he knew that luck — as well as hail, rain, lightning, a first-half deficit and history itself — was against the Lady Rebels. However, a gritty Columbine team wasn’t going to be denied May 22 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Behind second-half goals from underclassmen Kelcey Cavarra, Amanda Porter and Tatum Barton, Columbine produced its first 5A state girls soccer championship in six tries — and the school’s first team championship, outside of a poms title in 1993, for any girls program — with a 3-1 win over conference rival Ralston Valley. It was the first all-Jeffco final since Dakota Ridge beat Green Mountain in 2003.
“We were not going to lose this, no matter what. We’ve worked way too hard,” Barton said. “Columbine had never won a state championship, a girls state championship. … We wanted it more than anything. We all just came out and worked our butts off.”
But the wait to end that drought was longer than expected, after the game was postponed from its original May 21 scheduled date due to 4 inches of hail that covered the pitch. The stadium crew was able to clear the field that day, but only in time for the 4A game between Cheyenne Mountain and Broomfield. Then the game, which was scheduled for a 5 p.m. start on Thursday, was delayed another 72 minutes courtesy of lightning.
Columbine (17-3), which finished in a three-way tie with Ralston Valley and Standley Lake with a 6-2 conference mark, won the league title because it swept both of them, including a 1-0 win over the Lady Mustangs on April 29. But Ralston Valley (16-4) got on the scoreboard first in this one. Freshman Lindsay Guerrero’s lightning-quick strike from just inside the box, off a feed from Sarah Bevington in the 21st minute, gave the Lady Mustangs a 1-0 lead going into halftime.
“The size of the field caught us off guard. We’re a really good team on a big field, but this is a huge field," Todd said. "We were giving too much space up to Ralston Valley. We were sitting on the ball. We would dump the ball and move forward, and we couldn’t go as a unit. We would just go with a few players.
"We turned the ball over too easy for Ralston Valley to come at us,” he said. “We tried to change that script in the second half. One, by bringing a little more energy, and (two), follow the play as a unit when we went forward.”
It worked to perfection, even if Columbine needed a little luck to jump-start its second-half flurry.
Cavarra’s goal in the 47th minute came after the sophomore midfielder booted a free kick from 40 yards out in the direction of Ralston Valley goalkeeper Renee Roemer. The Lady Mustangs junior had a bead on the ball, but with Barton running in from the side, Roemer misplayed it, and it went through her hands and underneath her into the back of the net.
“Once we had that goal, it was just, 'We need to keep pushing and pushing.' We knew that was coming. We needed more to end it,” Barton said.
They got it, starting with Porter’s goal three minutes later on a well-placed kick from the left side of the box over an outreached Roemer. And though Cavarra’s goal evened the score, it was Porter’s tally that shifted the momentum in Columbine’s favor, Todd said.
Barton added the finishing touch in the 80th minute as Columbine persistently pounded the Ralston Valley net in the second half.
Previously, Columbine lost in the state finals in 1993, ’95, ’98, ’99 and 2000. Then, this season, there were some doubts after losses to non-playoff teams Chatfield and Lakewood. But with each playoff victory, the Lady Rebels’ mind-set changed, and they started believing in their chances to finally break the ice.
“I think we had our doubts during the season. We lost three games, a couple to Chatfield,” Cavarra said. “But definitely going through the playoffs and playing that hard, we knew we were still in this, and knowing that we had beaten some great teams, that really motivated us. That was a turning point for me.”
So even though two of Columbine’s three losses were to archrival Chatfield, those setbacks were eclipsed by the joy of winning a first state title, Cavarra said.
“Absolutely. Any day of the year,” Cavarra said.