ARVADA — Wheat Ridge’s girls soccer team officially began its quest to defend its Class 4A Jeffco League title Thursday at the North Area Athletic Complex.
The Farmers, No. 5 in the latest CHSAANow.com 4A girls soccer rankings, got off to a 1-0 start in conference play with a 1-0 win over Standley Lake.
“It is always nice to get that first (league) win to build that confidence,” Wheat Ridge senior Alex Nillen said. “From here on out hopefully we can continue this and keep playing how we are playing.”
Wheat Ridge (6-0 overall, 1-0 4A Jeff) is not only undefeated, but it has also racked up five shutout victories already this season. Sophomore goalie Logan DuFord has given up just a single goal in her six starts in net.
“I’m not going to take all the credit,” DuFord said. “Because our defense is such a family I think we communicate really well and work well together.”
The last line of defense for the Farmers had a couple of key grabs in the second half when Standley Lake (4-1-2, 0-1) had some dangerous chances.
“The back four (defenders) have been very, very strong limiting those opportunities, but you have to have that piece (DuFord) back there to hold it together,” Wheat Ridge coach Dan Watkins said. “She not only made some good stops, but held on to some balls. Logan just steps up and makes plays.”
The offensive play Wheat Ridge put together for the lone goal came in the 14th minute off a corner kick. Junior Melissa Browne sent in a low line drive into the box. Nillen was able to get in front of a handful of Gator defenders to volley the ball past Standley Lake junior goalie Emma Smith.
“I saw the space. We’ve been practicing corners and I just kind of made a run,” Nillen said. “Before I knew it, it hit my foot. It was kind of surprising, but I thought it was a good finish.”
Nillen’s shot just got under the crossbar. It was Nillen’s eighth goal of the season from her midfield position.
“They have come from all over the board,” Nillen said of her barrage of goals. “When the opportunity is there I take my shot and hopefully it goes in.”
Standley Lake didn’t fade by any means after Nillen’s goal. The Gators hung tough, but just couldn’t get the equalizer.
“We defend well. We just have a problem getting forward and getting opportunities,” said Standley Lake coach Derek Cortvriendt, who’s Gators lost 3-2 in overtime last year against the Farmers in league play. “Wheat Ridge is very well organized and ran the clock out well in the end there not allowing us any good chances.”
Watkins knows pretty much every conference game will be a battle throughout league play. Four 4A Jeffco teams — Valor Christian, Wheat Ridge, D’Evelyn and Evergreen — are ranked in the top 10. Standley Lake, Green Mountain and Littleton also received votes in the last poll.
“I think that is what it’s going to be every night out,” Watkins said. “There is so much depth. So many good teams and so many good players. We were fortunate to be on the right side of it tonight. Jeffco is going to be a monster.”
Cortvriendt believes his team can “defend all day” but has to have more possession and offensive scoring chances during the Gators’ road through the conference.
“It is like a year-long playoff basically and that is how it feels,” Cortvriendt added. “It is great because it gets you ready to go for the state playoffs.”