PARKER | Shalom Prince had played in a ridiculous amount of Class 5A state playoffs games over the last three-plus seasons with Grandview and she wanted one more.
The determined senior forward made sure she and the Wolves would end their season in the last game possible — the 5A state championship game — when she tallied the lone goal in a 1-0 semifinal victory Saturday over Ralston Valley at EchoPark Stadium.
Prince scored her first postseason goal since the first round and extended her playoff point streak to four games with her goal in the 53rd minute that stood up for the second-seeded Wolves, which held off the 14th-seeded Mustangs to make the 5A final for the second straight season and fourth time in the last five.
“It feels amazing to be able to do this (play in the final),” Prince said. “Some people never get to do it once, but I’ll be able to do it for a third time. I feel really blessed to be in this position.”
Coach Tari Wood’s Grandview team (16-2-1) is set to face 12th-seeded Arapahoe (15-3-1) in a 7 p.m. contest May 22 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to decide the crown. The Wolves and Warriors (who edged Rocky Mountain 3-2 in the other semifinal) played to a 2-2 tie in Centennial League play April 2.
To reach the championship game and earn a chance to defend last season’s state title, Grandview had to defeat an upstart Ralston Valley team that came in with momentum from upset wins over No. 3 Fruita Monument and No. 11 Columbine.
In a game that started quite late because of two lightning delays in the opening contest, Wood thought her side came out flat and despite a stiff wind at their backs, the Wolves weren’t able to get on the scoreboard.
In a scoreless game, Grandview then had to defend into the wind in the second half, which gave Ralston Valley and standout senior forward Sarah Piper confidence to push forward.
The Wolves defense held and the game remained scoreless until Prince sliced through the wind to run down a through ball and broke in on Mustangs’ keeper Lilly Van Alsburg.
Prince’s initial shot towards the far post was blocked low by Van Alsburg, but the rebound came back to her and she drilled the rebound into the net to break the scoreless tie.
“It’s really nerve-wracking when they are coming right at you, but it’s all about placement,” Prince said.
Senior goalkeeper Madison Livingston made four saves in the game for Grandview, nearly all of them coming in the frantic final minutes. Ralston Valley had a good chance with a loose ball in front of the goal on the end of a corner kick serve, but couldn’t find the finish to tie the game up.
“That’s a good question (how the ball didn’t go in),” Livingston said. “I went for it and I had Lauren (Holleran) there and we kept it out somehow. That’s all we needed to do.”
Wood was pleased with the defensive effort in the final minutes.
“We played really good defense at the end; we knew they all wanted to get it to their stud (Piper), but we did a good job of standing them up, letting them dribble in and then waiting for the turnover,” Wood said. “And we all trust Madi.”
In between Ralston Valley surges, Grandview possessed the ball and milked the clock, taking the ball to the wide corners and holding off defenders for large chunks of time.
The victory earned the Wolves a chance to play at the Colorado Rapids’ stadium yet again, something most of them have become very familiar with lately.
“It’s the best field in the state and I love the grass there,” Livingston said. “I’m absolutely looking forward to playing at Dick’s again.”
Added Prince: “The feeling at Dick’s is like no other, so we’re excited.”
Wood is looking forward to the experience of playing in the professional venue in pressure-packed situations in the past shining through against Arapahoe.
“Hopefully the nerves are gone because you’re there now, you either win or lose and you’re not playing to play in the next game anymore,” Wood said. “I’m not thrilled that we have the same matchup as in the boys season, but I will take the experience of these girls and their work ethic all day long.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
(2) GRANDVIEW 1, (14) RALSTON VALLEY 0
Score by halves:
Ralston Valley 0 0 — 0
Grandview 0 1 — 1
Grandview — Shalom Prince, 53rd minute
Grandview saves: Madison Livingston (4 shots on goal-4 saves)