Girls Soccer: Aurora girls teams showing plenty of pitch power as postseason approaches

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Junior Taylor Parker (10) is part of a large core that has the Grandview girls soccer team rolling again as it bids to win a second consecutive Class 5A girls state soccer championship. The Wolves and Aurora rival Cherokee Trail remain undefeated ahead of a meeting in the last week of the regular season that will decide the Centennial League championship. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

While the spring’s consistent wet and snowy weather has kept the Grandview soccer team off the playing field for long stretches, the Wolves continue to get better thanks to themselves.

Coach Tari Wood’s defending Class 5A state champions boast depth very few other teams can match and though the Wolves’ schedule continues to get backed up — they must play seven games in the final two weeks — a repeat looks like a strong possibility.

With a roster full of Division-I bound players and hungry young talent, Grandview has handled the weather-related adversity to find its form on its way to a 9-0-1 start.

“We definitely have a very competitive atmosphere at practice and it helps us on and off the field,” junior midfielder Nicole Lyubenko said after the Wolves’ 4-0 win over Mullen April 22. “We get better at practice every day and we’re going at it. We want to defend our title.”

The Wolves lost just two starters from last season in goalkeeper Maddie Lesjak and striker Bailey Cook, who graduated early and skipped her senior year to head to San Diego State early.

Half the team is committed or has signed with Division I programs in seniors Mandi Duggan (Kansas) and Maddy Germann (Murray State), Lyubenko (Alabama), Taylor Parker (Denver) and Jessica Hixson (Utah) and sophomores Natalie Beckman (Denver) and Morgan Szarka (Creighton).

With so much technical skill and depth on her roster, Wood is really nitpicking when it comes to finding flaws in her team. Only one thing really stands out at this point and so far it hasn’t been a major concern given the strength of the Wolves’ defense.

“We just need to finish more; we’ve been able to generate a million chances, we just need to put more of them away,” she said.

Grandview heard its coach’s concern and scored 10 goals apiece against Thomas Jefferson and Overland. The Wolves need the offense to find its groove in its closing stretch, during which it will face the other two undefeated teams remaining in 5A (as of April 28), which includes Aurora rival Cherokee Trail.

The Wolves (10-0-1) and Cougars (11-0-2) have had their game postponed twice and will try again on May 3, which comes after Grandview is scheduled to play Regis Jesuit on April 30 (weather permitting). A matchup with another unbeaten team, Columbine, looms May 4.

Cherokee Trail looks built for a lengthy 5A playoff run as well, as coach Jeremy Schaller’s team has a talented returning core — led by juniors Rebekah Burton, Hannah Edwards and Sierra Rivera and sophomore Alesia Garcia — and some improving young talent such as double-digit goal scorer Delaney McLelland, a sophomore.

Regis Jesuit has had a core of talent for the past few seasons, but injuries or club commitments — or both — have managed to hinder the Raiders’ continuity and limited their ability to win big games.

That hasn’t been the case this season, as coach Will Cropper’s group owns a victory over powerhouse Mountain Vista (the only loss for the 11-1-1 Golden Eagles) and owns a game advantage in the Continental League, where four teams automatically make the playoffs.

The Raiders (8-2-1) also feature plenty of Division I players in Creighton signees Haylee Blach and Kyleigh Crist, plus Boston College-bound Emily Langenderfer and veteran goalkeeper Emily Griffith, a New Mexico recruit.

Hinkley and Rangeview both hold out hopes of a top-four finish in the EMAC to make the playoffs and both teams posted their fourth straight victories on April 28, as the Thunderbirds downed Aurora Central and the Raiders took care of Gateway.

Coach David Nickoloff’s Hinkley team features a dynamic offensive duo in senior Raquel Isaac and junior Teaggan Ilela — who have combined for 38 goals and 25 assists — while first-year coach Dawn Weber team has played strong defense (including shutouts in its past three games) and features a pair of six-goal scorers in juniors Taylor Ohu and Rachel Vincent.

Smoky Hill and Eaglecrest (Centennial League) feature the talent and strength of schedule to make serious bids at receiving one of the 10 at-large 5A playoff spots.

In the 4A ranks, coach Jason Elliott’s Vista PEAK has racked up 10 wins in its first 11 games and has a chance to win a league title.

The Bison feature a dynamic scorer in sophomore Kierra Cox, who leads the state with 30 goals to go with 11 assists.

Sophomores Jordan Quinn and Jessica Jefferson and freshman Jenna Vidal add punch for Vista PEAK, which has a showdown with Elizabeth set for May 5 which is likely to decide the winner of the Colorado 7.

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel

AURORA GIRLS SOCCER RECORDS (As of April 28)

Cherokee Trail 11-0-2 (5-0-1 in Centennial League); Vista PEAK 11-1 (5-0-0 in Colorado 7); Grandview 10-0-1 (6-0-0 in Centennial League); Regis Jesuit 8-2-1 (6-0-1 in Continental League); Rangeview 6-3-2 (5-1-2 in EMAC); Hinkley 7-4-2 (4-2-2 in EMAC); Eaglecrest 5-6 (2-4 in Centennial League); Aurora Central 5-7-1 (2-5 in EMAC); Smoky Hill 4-9 (3-4 in Centennial League); Overland 1-11-1 (0-7 in Centennial League); Gateway 0-13 (0-8 in EMAC)