AURORA | During a brief respite from the bitter cold and snow in the warm locker room at Legacy Stadium, the Cherokee Trail girls soccer team had a little something up its sleeve Wednesday night.
The Cougars trailed ThunderRidge by a goal at halftime and conditions continued to deteriorate at the break of the Class 5A first round state playoff game — which was rescheduled from the night before — but the they knew they would have the wind at their backs in the second half.
That advantage proved more than a little slight, as 15th-seeded Cherokee Trail racked up five goals and rolled past 18th-seeded ThunderRidge 5-1 to move into the second round.
“It (the wind) helped a whole lot in the second half,” Cougars senior Lynette Hawkins said. “We were able to connect our passes more, run on balls and use our speed as an advantage to get goals.
“That game was pretty wild from start to finish.”
Sophomore Clara Heistermann scored the game-tying goal in the opening minutes of the second half for coach Jeremy Schaller’s team, which went ahead a few minutes later on a header from junior Tatum Pfalmer.
Sophomore Madisyn Bagby added a third goal and junior Sawyer Choate scored twice in the final 6:31 for insurance. Junior goalkeeper Paige Hickman saved seven of the eight shots she faced in the net for the Cougars.
Cherokee Trail (11-5) is set for a rematch against Centennial League rival and second-seeded Grandview (13-2-1) in a game scheduled to be played at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Legacy Stadium.
The Cougars’ victory put Aurora teams at 3-0 in the 5A opening round, as the Wolves moved on with a 4-0 victory over No. 31 Horizon and No. 6 Regis Jesuit downed No. 27 Prairie View 6-0.
In the opening round contest, co-Continental League champion ThunderRidge (11-5) went in front just 11 minutes into the game when midfielder Bailey Moyer slid on the slick turf to finish a low cross from the right wing.
The Grizzlies took that 1-0 lead into halftime, but fortunes changed in the second half.
Heistermann netted her team-leading 14th goal right off the bat to get her team even, then Pfalmer broke the tie a few minutes later when she headed in a ball that got loose in front of the goal after a corner kick serve.
Bagby tucked a low shot inside the far post to make it a 3-1 game with 11:37 remaining in regulation in what Schaller saw as the difference.
“The second half definitely looked completely different; it (the wind) was not the worst one we’ve ever been in our here, but it definitely helped,” Schaller said. “I think when we got that third goal, they had enough with the weather. There’s so much about the state tournament that’s psychological.”
Choate scored twice in the last 6:30 for some extra insurance.
Cherokee Trail could then turn its attention to a rematch with Grandview, which is trying to defend last season’s state championship.
“I feel now we’re going to push even harder,” Hawkins said. “Last game with Grandview, I thought we stayed with them until the second half when we let up. I know we’ll play even harder this time.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
(15) CHEROKEE TRAIL 5, (18) THUNDERRIDGE 1
Score by halves:
ThunderRidge 1 0 — 1
Cher. Trail 0 5 — 5
Cherokee Trail goals: Sawyer Choate 2, Madisyn Bagby, Clara Heistermann, Tatum Pfalmer. Cherokee Trail assists: Heistermann, Kaitlyn Pagel. Cherokee Trail saves: Paige Hickman (8 shots on goal-7 saves)