Lady Panthers headed to post-season | SkyHiNews.com

Lady Panthers headed to post-season

The lady Panthers are on a roll and ready to tackle post-season soccer.

The Middle Park High School girl's soccer squad finished its 2017 regular season last week with a pair of wins over Roaring Fork and Aspen. The action got underway May 4 with an away game in Carbondale against the Roaring Fork Rams.

The match started slowly for the Panthers who seemed to be finding their sea legs on pitch and managed to score only one goal during the first half of play. However, as their legs got warmed up, the ladies brought the pressure and scored four more goals in the second half while holding the Rams scoreless.

Head Coach Jeff Ehlert highlighted the difference in the ladies' performances between the first and second half. He noted that the girls seemed to struggle during the first 40 minutes but added, "they just dominated the rest of the game."

The lady Panthers struggled a bit early in the season but eventually began steam-rolling most of their opponents.

"The first six games we had two wins and four losses," Ehlert said. "They were getting used to a new coach. But I feel like they really bought in with everything and since that time we are eight and one.

"We have had a real good finish to the season."

Sophomore Lisa McClain led the offensive efforts on Thursday by scoring two goals. Senior Annalys Hanna kept the Ram defenders tired on her way to scoring one goal and on assist. Junior Emily Jensen and sophomore Ellie MacKendrick rounded out the Panthers' five goals with one each. MacKendrick also recorded one assist. Also recording a pair of assists Thursday was sophomore Taylor Ehlert.

The defensive efforts for the day were handled by senior goalie Maddie Eichler who spent all 80 minutes in the keeper's position and managed to stop eight shots-on-goal from the Rams.

The action the following afternoon at home as the East Grand girls took the pitch against the Aspen High Skiers. The girls from Aspen proved a more difficult opponent for Middle Park who managed a hard fought win, 3-1. The end of the first half of play saw both the Panthers and Skiers tied at one goal a piece. The ladies nevertheless continued to pressure the Aspen defense in the second half and racked up two more goals while keeping the Skiers away from the Panther net on their way to the victory.

Team Captain Annalys Hanna was the leading scorer for the day, finding the back of the net on two separate occasions. Backing her up once again was Lisa McClain who recorded one goal and one assist on the day. Also recording assists on offense against Aspen was Ellie MacKendrick with two and junior Emily Jensen with one.

Team Captain and goalie Maddie Eichler anchored the team's defensive efforts stopping 16 of 17 shots-on-goal and recording a .941 save percentage in one of her most active matches of the year.

Ehlert said he was especially proud of the efforts the senior girls have put in recently.

"I just want to compliment the seniors," he said. "The last couple of games they have really stepped up, especially the Aspen game. All of our seniors really stepped up and played hard and helped us come away with that victory."

The Panthers are now preparing for the Colorado State Soccer Playoffs. In a unique twist of fate, their first game of the post-season will be against the Aspen Skiers.

The Panthers are one of 24 total teams competing in the post-season this year in Class 3A. Middle Park was previously ranked in the 30s, but after their last two games, managed to move up to 12th. They are the 12th seed for the post-season and as such they do not get a first round bye, which is a luxury afforded to only the top eight teams in the state. The Skiers are the 21st seed for the playoffs.

The Panthers and Skiers will meet in Lafayette on the Peak to Peak Charter School pitch. The post-season is single elimination so only the winner of the match will advance to the next round, where they will face off against the Peak to Peak Pumas. The ladies from Lafayette will get an additional advantage. On top of their first round bye, they will also get a chance to directly view the Panthers and Skiers game at home and get a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of both teams.

"It is a tough road we have ahead of us," said Ehlert. "But I think we are playing well enough. If the girls show up with the right attitude and go out aggressive right away I believe we have a chance to beat anyone."