AURORA | The Class 5A girls state soccer playoffs open on Tuesday, with six city squads set to take the pitch.
Three Aurora teams seeded in the top 16 of the state bracket — No. 9 Smoky Hill, No. 14 Grandview and No. 15 Rangeview — received the right to begin the playoffs on their home fields, while No. 19 Regis Jesuit technically doesn’t have to travel far as it plays Grandview in an all-Aurora matchup at Legacy Stadium.
No. 22 Cherokee Trail and No. 32 Hinkley travel to play at higher seeded opponents, with the Cougars set to face No. 11 Monarch and the Thunderbirds slated to oppose top-seeded Fossil Ridge.
The following is a brief glance at each first-round matchup based on game starting time:
NO. 22 CHEROKEE TRAIL (7-8) AT NO. 11 MONARCH (8-5-2), 4 P.M.
The Cougars appear in the postseason for the second straight season since moving up from 4A to 5A and look for a better result than their 3-1 loss to Pine Creek last season in the opening round. Coach Jeremy Schaller’s Cherokee Trail team finished fifth in the Centennial League standings and dropped three of its last four games, although the losses all came to playoff teams in No. 7 Cherry Creek, No. 8 Columbine and No. 14 Grandview. Freshman Rebekah Burton leads the Cougars in goals with 13 and her five assists ties her with junior Aubrey Gessner for the team lead. Monarch is 2-1-1 in its last four games. The Coyotes don’t score much — 24 goals in 15 games, 11 for senior Cassie Owens — but they also don’t give up much (15 goals in 15 games). The winner moves on to play the winner of the matchup between No. 27 Rocky Mountain and No. 6 Arapahoe.
NO. 24 DAKOTA RIDGE (5-9-1) AT NO. 9 SMOKY HILL (12-2-1), 4:30 P.M.
Smoky Hill saw its chance to win the Centennial League championship slip away with a loss to Cherry Creek in its league finale, but bounced back to handle Boulder 3-1 in its last contest May 2. Coach Matt Guglielmo’s Buffs have played seven of their last eight games on their home field — aka “The Swamp” and get at least one more contest there when they host the Eagles. Junior Brynell Yount and sophomore Sam Howshar share the lead with 10 goals apiece for Smoky Hill, with freshman Brooke Sosa’s eight not far behind. Howshar — who has been the Buffs’ clutch player in key moments all season — has nine assists to easily lead the team. Few teams have been better defensively than Smoky Hill, which has yielded just 11 goals all season, led by junior keeper Megan Kneefel’s strong play in the nets. Dakota Ridge is just 1-3-1 in its last five games, but ended the season with a 2-1 loss to Rock Canyon, the No. 2 overall seed in the postseason. The winner moves on to play the winner of the matchup between No. 25 Fruita Monument and No. 8 Columbine.
NO. 18 LIBERTY (10-4-1) VS. NO. 15 RANGEVIEW (11-4), 6 P.M. AT APS STADIUM
EMAC champion Rangeview comes into the postseason with nine wins in its last 10 games, but is looking to break a trend that’s seen it lose first round home games in each of the past two seasons. Coach Vic Strouse’s Raiders have one of the most prolific offenses statistically with 82 total goals in 15 games, paced by seniors Megan Campbell and Vanessa Madera with 21 goals apiece and freshman Jessica Hixson with 17. Four players own double-digit assists for Rangeview, including each of the three team captains in Campbell and Madison Garst (16 apiece), Madera (14) and Hixson (13). The Raiders have tried five different players at goalkeeper, with freshman Belle Helgerson emerging lately and registering a 1.503 goals against average in 14 games. Liberty is 7-1-1 in its last nine contests, with the tie coming against Pine Creek, the No. 3 seed overall. The Lancers get goals from all over, as 13 different players have scored at least once, while they’ve only yielded 12 goals in 15 games. The winner moves on to play the winner of the matchup between No. 31 Prairie View and No. 2 Rock Canyon.
NO. 19 REGIS JESUIT (7-5-3) VS. NO. 14 GRANDVIEW (9-3-2), 6 P.M. AT LEGACY STADIUM
The only all-Aurora matchup of the first round is a rematch, as Grandview beat Regis Jesuit 1-0 on the same field exactly two months earlier. Coach Tari Wood’s Wolves had some stumbles due to injuries and players absent for club tournaments, but has put things of late and is unbeaten in its last seven contests (5-0-2), including a tie with No. 9 Smoky Hill. Grandview’s been especially stout of late defensively, yielding just four goals in those seven games while scoring 34 goals of its own. Seniors Maddi Rodriguez and Brooke Tasker each have tallied nine goals, while senior Whitney Taggart has eight to her credit and Rodriguez tops the team with five assists. Senior keeper Maddie Lesjak has been especially strong of late. Regis Jesuit comes into the game on a three-game losing streak, though all were one-goal decisions and two game to top-10 teams in No. 2 Rock Canyon and No. 9 Smoky Hill. Coach Will Cropper’s Raiders also played fourth-seeded and championship favorite Mountain Vista to a 0-0 tie midseason. Senior Kelsi Lidge joined the team after winning a state championship with the Regis Jesuit girls basketball team and leads the team with seven goals, while junior Natalie Baltizar has found her several times on her way to a team-best seven assists. The Raiders have a veteran keeper in Kylie Chisholm. The winner moves on to play the winner of the matchup between No. 30 Brighton and No. 3 Pine Creek.
NO. 32 HINKLEY (11-4) AT NO. 1 FOSSIL RIDGE (13-0-2), 7 P.M.
The Thunderbirds have had a pretty outstanding season, though coach David Nickoloff’s team — the fourth-place finisher from the EMAC — comes into the playoffs with losses in each of their past last two games. Hinkley’s last postseason appearance came in 2010, when it lost 9-0 to Cherry Creek in the opening round. This season’s Thunderbirds have 5A’s goal scoring leader in freshman Teaggan Ilela — who has 28 goals to her credit — but a late-season injury may keep Ilela from participating in the postseason contest. Sophomore Ashley Rager is next with 14 goals and 14 assists, which ranks one behind Ilela for the team lead. Senior goalkeeper Valeria Loera has faced a lot of shots this season and saved a bunch of them, 146 in all (or 9.733 per contest). Fossil Ridge is unbeaten and won its last eight games since a 2-2 tie with Greeley West a month ago. Senior Grace Cutler leads the SaberCats’ attack with 16 goals and 11 assists, while Fossil Ridge has surrendered just eight goals in 15 contests on the other end. The winner moves on to play the winner of the matchup between No. 17 Doherty and No. 16 George Washington.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2014 CLASS 5A GIRLS STATE SOCCER PLAYOFFS
First round, May 6
Cherokee Trail at Monarch, 4 p.m.
Dakota Ridge at Smoky Hill, 4:30 p.m.
Liberty vs. Rangeview at Aurora Public Schools Stadium, 6 p.m.
Regis Jesuit vs. Grandview at Legacy Stadium, 6 p.m.
Hinkley at Fossil Ridge, 7 p.m.