Lady Panthers lose post-season bid
The spring soccer season came to a heartbreaking end on Friday for the Middle Park girls as they lost their first post-season match and effectively ended their run for the 2017 3A State Soccer Championship.
The ladies from East Grand had been on a roll of late, crushing opponents by wide margins and winning eight of their last nine games just prior to the start of the post-season. Their first match of the State Championship playoffs was held last week in Lafayette against the Aspen High Skiers. The Panthers were familiar with their opponents, having just beat the lady Skiers at home a week earlier in their final match of the regular season. That game ended 3-1.
But the Skiers came ready for the Panthers last Friday.
It was a hard-fought defensive battle with both teams struggling to find the back of the net. The Panthers drew first blood with a single goal in the first half of play. The Skiers had no answer on offense and the first 40 minutes of the first round playoff match ended with Middle Park up by one goal.
The defensive backs continued their performances in the second half. The lady Skiers managed a single goal during the second half while holding off the Panther’s offensive forwards. The second half ended with a tie score, 1-1.
Though overtime proved to be the Panthers’ undoing as the girls from Aspen recorded a second goal. The ladies from Granby lost the match, 1-2, thus ending their 2017 season. During overtime the Middle Park ladies threatened the Skiers several times but couldn’t quite manage to close it out. According to Middle Park Head Soccer Coach Jeff Ehlert, the Skiers got a handball inside the Panther goal box, which prompted a penalty kick. Ehlert said he was disappointed with the season’s early end but was proud of the team’s performance, both in the final match of the year and throughout the entire season.
“It was a tough way to end the season,” Ehlert said. “But it was a well played game. They really played with a lot of effort, which is all I ever ask of them. I was proud of the way they went out this year.”
It had been a successful spring for the lady Panthers who finished disappointingly soon after a mostly stellar regular season.
The girls finished 2017 with a 10-6 overall record, and a winning percentage of .625. Their performance in the Frontier League was even better with a 5-1 league record. The girls headed into the post-season as the No. 12 seed, slightly missing the first-round bye that the top eight seeded teams enjoyed. Their opponents for the first round, the Skiers, were seeded 21 for the playoffs.
The state soccer playoffs are single elimination and only the winner of the first round match on Friday would advance to play the Peak to Peak lady Pumas in the second round.
Throughout this year’s season it sometimes appeared that two different teams were taking the pitch for Middle Park. Over the entire season, the East Grand girls outscored their opponents, 64-26. The ladies had one 10-goal game, two nine-goal games and one eight-goal game along with a hodgepodge of games with goals totalling under five. Along the way the ladies shut out five different teams.
But on several other occasions the high powered Panther offense seemed out of gas as the ladies themselves were shut out four times this year. The Panthers made a habit of rebounding though, as they did when shutting out Roaring Fork, 5-0, right after a tough loss to St. Mary’s, 0-6.
“I think (the team’s) future looks bright and over the next couple of years we will only get better and better,” the coach added.
Ehlert noted that the girls’ squad will lose several key senior players this year due to graduation but believes the younger players on the team will have a lot of talent to bring to the field. He said he is also encouraged by what he has seen of the eighth grade girls in club soccer.
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November is a hit-or-miss snow month, and while this year’s weather wasn’t the best for ski season in Summit County, it also wasn’t the worst.