LAKEWOOD — When the playoffs roll around it’s normally the time when your top players step up their game just a little bit more.
That was the case in a Class 5A girls soccer first-round game late afternoon Tuesday at Lakewood Memorial Field. Columbine junior Tessa Barton (verbal commitment to Mississippi State University) and senior Skylar Alward (signed with University of Iowa) combined for three goals in the No. 7-seeded Rebels’ 4-0 victory over No. 26 Denver East.
“It was honestly huge,” Barton said of the late goal in the first half that broke the scoreless tie. “I think we needed a goal to fire our team up. This is playoffs. You have to give everything you have. That first goal was a big one.”
Barton got things going drawing a penalty kick with 5:19 left in the first half. After being taken down in the Angels’ goalie box, Barton successfully put in the PK to give Columbine (13-3 record) a 1-0 lead late in the first half.
“I knew if I went as hard as I could I would either get the goal or she would probably foul me,” Barton said drawing the PK. “Denver East’s back four put up some physical activity.”
The Angles nearly tied things up minutes after Barton’s goal. Sophomore Bella Solomon got some open space and fired a shot on Columbine goalie Madeline Samuelson. The senior punched the ball over the crossbar on what would be Denver East’s best scoring chance of the game.
Samuelson eventually racked up her 10th shutout victory in net this season.
“We were a little flat to be honest. I think the temperature caught us off-guard. At halftime we were out of gas,” Columbine coach Brian Todd admitted. “This is one of the hotter days we’ve played in. I could see us hitting this heat wall. Second half they performance much better.”
Alward heated up in the second half scoring back-to-back goals in the 54th and 73rd minutes to push the Rebels’ lead to 3-0. Sophomore Evelyn Hammer added one more goal for good measure in the 79th minute.
“We worked really hard as a team and the result showed in the end,” Alward said.
Next up for the Rebels will be No. 10 ThunderRidge. The Grizzlies (12-4) defeated Lakewood 5-0 in their first-round game Tuesday. ThunderRidge actually handed Columbine a 2-1 overtime loss March 8 in the season opener for both teams.
ThunderRidge scored a late goal in regulation-time to send that first game into overtime. The Grizzlies (13-4) then scored a PK early in overtime.
“It helped us become a very good defensive team,” Todd said of the lesson learned in the early-season loss. “We have had a great season because of it and we feel real good playing ThunderRidge again, but we’ve got to play well.”
The second-round game between ThunderRidge and Columbine will be played Friday, May 11, at Lakewood Memorial Field. A time hasn’t been announced.
“We are excited to get another chance,” Alward said of facing ThunderRidge back to Lakewood Memorial Field. “We worked really hard this whole season to focus on this RPI for playoffs. We got the standing (seed) we wanted. We are happy about that.”