Known worldwide as “The Beautiful Game,” soccer also may be the most unpredictable.
Ask the Regis Jesuit girls soccer team, which believed so strongly it would miss last season’s Class 5A state playoffs that it scheduled its closing banquet just after the close of the regular season.
In that unpredictable fashion, coach Will Cropper’s Raiders not only made the postseason, they did damage in it. As the No. 29 seeded out of 32 teams, Regis Jesuit turned the postseason on its ear by knocking out No. 4 Fruita Monument and No. 13 Legacy in succession before falling in the quarterfinals to Continent League rival Mountain Vista.
It was an end that gave the Raiders a lot to talk about at their rescheduled end-of-the-season banquet and also gave them something to remember.
“It showed us that soccer can go any way on any day,” senior defender Molly Reich said. “It’s about who comes out ready to play their hearts out and who wants it more.”
The benefits of those extra postseason games and practices for a roster of players that were mostly underclassmen has born fruit in 2019.
Regis Jesuit — winners of just six game last season, including two in the playoffs — are off to a 5-0-2 start this season and remain one of only two 5A remaining undefeated teams along with 10-0 Rampart through games of April 23.
“If you compare our roster, it’s really not all that different of a team from last year,” Cropper said. “I think a lot of girls came back with experience and it felt like we got the team building aspect out of the way last year. It was pretty much a brand new roster, so I was still learning names for awhile, but now we have a group that’s been together for awhile.
“We don’t have any super, super stars, but we have a team that when they work together, they get the job done.”
Cropper estimates that a handful of outstanding players that attend Regis Jesuit — but instead play for the recently-created Developmental Academy system that has impacted prep soccer tremendously of late — but has a quality roster at his disposal.
Though lacking in a superstar, the Raiders have a variety of standouts, including Reich — a defensive anchor and the team’s only All-Continental League first team selection last season — and junior forward Ava Laden, who scored the game-winning goals in both postseason wins last season.
Laden shares the team lead in goals with impact freshman Anna Lantz, who tallied her fourth goal of the season in the Raiders’ 1-1 tie with Castle View April 23 and had a point-blank chance to win it near the end of the second overtime that was saved.
Regis Jesuit has also been stout defensively with just four goals allowed in seven games.
“There’s something about the team chemistry; when everybody wants it and is on the same page, we’re at our best,” Reich said. “I think every time we play well, it’s an entire team effort. Every time we’ve had a great game, it hasn’t just been our starters or our offense or our defense. It’s been everybody.
“I have a lot of confidence in who we are and what we’ve done. I see it carrying on to the rest of the season and into the postseason. I’m really excited.”
With its fast start, making the 5A state playoffs is a virtual certainly for Regis Jesuit — despite soccer’s unpredictability — but it could end up anywhere by the end the regular season.
Coming off back-to-back grueling double-overtime ties with Mountain Vista and Castle View, the Raiders (currently No. 5 in CHSAA’s complicated RPI standings) face a stretch of seven games in a nine-day span between April 25 and May 3. Included in that is a matchup with defending state champion Grandview May 2.
“The silver lining is that we’re still undefeated and have a goose egg in the loss column, but we’re making it harder on ourselves with these long games if we want to win a league title or get a home seed in the playoffs. These new two weeks are going to be a bear.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports