Middle Park soccer sees multiple mercy rule wins in start to league play
For Sky-Hi News
When it comes to competition, Middle Park High School soccer coach Jackie Finley most enjoys the games where athletes are put to the test, scores are narrow and the victors can leave the field knowing they were up against someone of their skill level.
Still, there’s no denying that being on the good side of a total blowout has its perks.
Panther girls’ soccer stands at 3-1-2 and is undefeated so far in the 2A/3A Frontier League after dual 10-0 wins in the past week.
Middle Park hosted its first home match April 4, and though the air was still chilly, the hosting team was on fire against Lake County, ending it early via mercy rule for the first time this season.
“Sometimes they get a little goal-hungry,” Finley said of the scoring spree.
Senior Ashtyn Laraby led with a hat trick in a game where Finley’s bunch could do no wrong on offense despite the less than hospitable weather.
“It was very cold and windy,” Finley said. “The field was fine and playable, but Lake County told us we still had more snow around than they did in Leadville.”
The momentum kept rolling two days later as Middle Park took the field at Regis University in Denver against Arrupe Jesuit. The score may have been the same, but it worked out much differently to Finley’s delight.
“We had eight different players scoring, which is really awesome. That promotes better teamwork,” she said. “Mercy rule is a mercy rule, but if we can play well and work on things while scoring like that, that’s better. I don’t want to score 10 goals in 10 minutes. We won it in 70 minutes and I wanted them to go the full 80, but sometimes goals happen.”
The Panthers junior varsity team was also able to play, picking up a 1-0 win.
“Those games are kind of rare in our league, so I was really glad about that,” Finley said.
The first month has been a productive one, though not only because of wins.
After a 2-2 draw against Mantiou Springs, Middle Park soccer’s March 16 conference opener against KIPP Denver Collegiate gave them a test of tenacity, which they passed with a 3-1 win, with two goals by junior Emry Burns and one by sophomore Wren Williams.
However, the following week was more of a challenge, as they faced the ever-potent Vail Mountain Gore Rangers.
“We played the first half of the first half extremely well. Then our goalkeeper got injured, and we kind of just broke down from there,” Finley said. “Poor decision-making, out of position, and a lot of those goals could have been stopped. Not necessarily by the goalie, but it was a lot of mistakes on our part. All the things I wanted us to do, they were doing to us.”
The result was their first defeat, falling 7-1, with Burns scoring the lone goal off the assist by Laraby.
The reflection afterward was humbling for some.
“I’m not gonna say I’m glad they lost because I don’t like to lose. But when we watched the film of it, I told the team, ‘you may have thought you played really well and maybe you were catching other people’s mistakes, but the film doesn’t lie,’” Finley said. “Most of the girls watched and realized, ‘oh, I didn’t play as well as I thought I did.’ It was a good learning experience.”
After that, Middle Park went into spring break, and after the hiatus, Finley is glad to see athletes doubling down on their resolve upon return.
The Panthers’ Monday home match against the Frontier League’s Jefferson was postponed, giving the team a bit of a breather after this past weekend’s 4-4 result in Basalt.
The matchup with the non-league opponent Longhorns was a curious test of abilities, given the Longhorns’ 11-4 loss to Vail Mountain, a game in which Basalt averted a shutout after an 8-0 first half as they fought back fiercely against the Gore Rangers.
It’s this week’s game against The Pinnacle Finley is more interested in as she analyzes where her team stands in the league.
As expected, the other big early contender for the Frontier title is The Academy, the only other squad who has yet to see a loss among Frontier teams, boasting the top two scorers in the league.
The faceoff between Middle Park and The Academy is a long way down the road at the end of the regular season, but that final match just before a potential entry into the postseason will serve as a powerful impetus given the history between the two teams.
“They used that loss to Academy last year as motivation,” Finley said. “It was not a good game for us, and we got second in the league. They’re pretty hungry for some redemption.”
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