COMMERCE CITY | Defending a state championship is a lot more difficult than winning the first one, as the past 24 Class 5A girls state soccer winners found out.
Grandview became the exception, however, as the Wolves survived each and every challenge that came their way — including an especially tough test from Mountain Vista in 5A’s final Wednesday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park — to become the first team in nearly a quarter century to repeat.
Junior Avianne Burris’ goal with just under 20 minutes left held up as top-seeded Grandview held on for a 2-1 victory over the sixth-seeded Golden Eagles that finished an undefeated season and made them the first repeat champion in 5A girls soccer since Heritage in 1991 and 1992.
“This huge, it hasn’t been done since Heritage did it and I was supporting the team back then when they did it,” said Grandview coach Tari Wood, coincidentally a Heritage alum.
“We also finished the season undefeated and I don’t know the last time that happened. I know none of our other ones were (2008 and 2015), so that was huge especially since the competition level is higher than it was back then.”
Even more impressively, Wood’s team — which finished the season 18-0-1 — stretched its unbeaten streak to 36 consecutive games. Grandview is 35-0-1 (with the one tie coming against Mountain Vista earlier this season) since a 1-0 loss to Columbine back on March 17, 2015.
Burris’ left-footed shot following senior Mandi Duggan’s deep penetration into the Mountain Vista defensive end put the Wolves back into the lead after the Golden Eagles (15-4-1) forged a tie when Haley Schueppert converted a penalty kick chance in the first half.
A valuable reserve and typically the first sub off Wood’s bench, Burris was ready for her chance when she arrived on the ball and lofted it over the head of Mountain Vista goalie Kylee Love.
“I didn’t know if Mandi was passing the ball to me, but I decided ‘I’m going to take it, let me just bend it with my left foot,’ and that’s what I did,” Burris said.
“I didn’t know if it went in, but then I heard the crowd yelling and it felt really good. We’d been practicing shooting back post all week so I just put it back post…I have four goals this season, but this is definitely the most special.”
Senior Melanie Jenkins had given the Wolves the early lead in the 15th minute when she got her head on a bouncing ball from Duggan that eluded Love and headed it into the net.
The lead lasted for 15 minutes as the Golden Eagles continued to apply pressure and it paid off when dangerous forward Katie Joella drove in front of Grandview’s goal and was fouled in the box, resulting in a penalty kick.
Schueppert drilled it into the net as Wolves’ goalkeeper Reagan McCombs dove to the opposite post for the first and only goal Grandview allowed in five postseason victories. It was also the first score the Wolves had allowed in the playoffs since a second round loss to Pine Creek in 2014, a span of nine-plus games.
“They were throwing a lot of ammunition at us,” said Wood, who made some adjustments at halftime to the play of her backline of juniors Jessica Hixson and Taylor Parker and sophomores Lindsi Jennings and Allie Zerr defended the Golden Eagles.
McCombs — one of only two new starters this season as she filled in for graduated Maddie Lesjak — bounced back and made two fine saves in the second half, as she snared a line drive shot by Joella just two minutes before Burris scored on the other end and punched out another dangerous ball out of the air in front of the goal.
Parker also saved a goal when she hugged the post on a Mountain Vista corner kick — not her usual practice — and headed out a sure goal after one of the Golden Eagles got a head on Schueppert’s serve.
“I don’t usually stay on the post like that, but I felt like it was coming in there, so I stayed there,” Parker said. “They got so many corner kicks and chances, but we did a good job on them.”
Grandview hit the crossbar looking for an insurance goal in the closing minutes and kept enough possession to keep Mountain Vista from mounting any real threat to get the equalizer in the final 10 minutes.
When it was over and the Wolves had collected their second straight title, they could reflect on the accomplishment.
“From Day One, we were just targets and that just fueled our fire even more,” Jennings said. “We knew we had to do it, not only for the school, but for ourselves.”
Grandview graduates some key seniors in the playmaking and Kansas-bound Duggan, Murray State signee Madalynn Germann and Jenkins, but expect to bring back much of the roster that was dominated by juniors and sophomores.
“We said we wanted to start a legacy last season and I think the legacy has been started,” junior Nicole Lyubenko said.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
(1) GRANDVIEW 2, (6) MOUNTAIN VISTA 1
Score by halves:
Mountain Vista 1 0 — 1
Grandview 1 1 — 2
First half: Grandview — Melanie Jenkins (Mandi Duggan), 15th minute; Mountain Vista — Haley Schueppert (penalty kick), 29th minute
Second half: Grandview — Avianne Burris (Duggan), 59th minute
Grandview saves: Reagan McCombs (5 shots on goal-4 saves). Corner kicks — Mountain Vista 7, Grandview 3. Fouls — Mountain Vista 5, Grandview 11. Cards — None.