In the world of girls prep soccer, the war in Highlands Ranch may carry over into the Class 5A state playoffs.
Continental League girls soccer is arguably the toughest in the state, and with six of its teams in the 5A state championship tournament, four of which hail from Highlands Ranch, it’s hard to argue that statement.
Mountain Vista, the defending state champion, earned the No. 1 seed this season with an 11-1-1 overall record and the Continental League title. However, the league championship didn’t come as easy as last year. In fact, it came down to the final regular season game against Rock Canyon May 1 at Shea Stadium in Highlands Ranch.
Vista won 1-0, and coach Theresa Echtermeyer said the Jaguars were the best team the Golden Eagles had played all year.
“Every season is different and every team is different. It’s good to have that game at the end of the season, where the girls have to fight to win,” Echtermeyer said. “(RockCanyon) and ThunderRidge are top, top teams. I expect all three (including Mountain Vista) teams to do well in the tournament.”
Rock Canyon earned the No. 9 seed with a 10-3-2 record and host their first round game against No. 24 Lakewood. ThunderRidge was the No. 11 seed with 10-3-2 mark as well. The Grizzlies also host first-round competition against No. 22 Rocky Mountain.
Echtermeyer said there is a lot of soccer talent in Highlands Ranch, including Highlands Ranch High School’s No. 21-seeded team with a 7-6-2 record. The veteran coach isn’t taking the league title lightly.
“We came out on top, but we’re not a stand out team,” Echtermeyer said. “We just happen to have one more win than every one else.”
One game at a time has always been the focus for Mountain Vista in past years and continues to help the Golden Eagles. Being in such a strong league has helped immensely, where only one or two teams have actually struggled while the rest offered top competition, the coach said.
One area where Mountain Vista has struggled is injuries and keeping its intended starters on the field. Having lost a couple key players for last year’s championship team and a lot of players in-and-out with injury, and standout player Gabbi Miranda off at nationals camp, the rest of the team’s chemistry both on and off the pitch has improved out of necessity.
Echtermeyer feels the team has adjusted to the injuries well over the season and expects the team to be healthy by the second round of the playoffs. Miranda is expected to be back on the field for Mountain Vista by the quarterfinals or semis, assuming the Eagles are still in the fight by then.
For now, Mountain Vista takes its repeat Continental League title and eyes the first round of the post-season.
“Our league is deep, and it’s a credit to all the teams, especially the Highlands Ranch teams,” Echtermeyer said. “There is definitely a war in the Ranch, and that makes it fun.”
Mountain Vista hosts the first round of the playoffs against No. 32 seed Adams City. In the league title-deciding game against Rock Canyon, the Golden Eagles’ Amy Alexander scored the game-winning goal in the second half. Goalkeeper Danielle Cushing finished with six saves for the shut out. Prior to that, Mountain Vista put up a 3-1 win over Regis Jesuit in Aurora.
Rock Canyon finished second in the league having put away Legend 3-0 prior to facing Mountain Vista. ThunderRidge was fourth with a 6-3-2 league record having finished the season with a 3-2 win over Littleton on the road. Highlands Ranch also went 6-3-2 in the league with a win over ThunderRidge, a 1-point loss to Douglas County and 2-0 win over Castle View to close the regular season schedule.