HIGHLANDS RANCH -- Rock Canyon girls soccer entered Tuesday as the No. 2 seed in the Class 5A playoffs. It was 16-1, ranked No. 19 in the nation by MaxPreps, and had only lost to another state title favorite, Mountain Vista, this year.
The Jaguars had outscored their opponents 48-6 and weren't shut out this season.
Ralston Valley, the No. 10 seed, didn’t care about the odds it faced. The Mustangs transformed from the long-shot to the dominant squad with an overpowering 3-0 quarterfinal upset of Rock Canyon at Shea Stadium.
The win sealed Ralston Valley’s first ever semifinal appearance in 5A in the school’s short history.
In a slow-starting, defensive battle early, Brenna Martinez broke through for a deep goal to give Ralston Valley a 1-0 lead with twenty minutes to go in the opening half. The Jaguars’ backline was strong in the first twenty minutes, typical for the Rock Canyon program, but Martinez had a powerful strike.
“We knew that they would pack it in defensively with their style of play,” Ralston Valley coach Kamee Morwood said. “We knew that we would have to take outside shots, so that first one from the outside, we’ve worked on it, we’ve practiced it, and it was almost textbook.”
The Jaguars never seemed to recover after first blood. Ralston Valley’s Emma Musson then opened the floodgates with a fastbreak goal.
“No one was back and I just saw our defender get the ball and I asked her to just go big,” Musson said. “When it dropped right in front of me, I saw I needed to score. I placed it and we were up two.”
Musson’s speed and foot skills pierced the Rock Canyon defense and the rout was on.
Janelle Feldmann added the third Mustang goal early in the second half and Ralston Valley’s defense did the rest to seal the upset victory.
Goalie Renee Roemer was outstanding in pitching the shutout.
“Renee played awesome,” Morwood said. “She’s been working really hard in our practices, she’s been working with goalie coaches. She has her heart and soul in this team. When she steps on the field, her focus is 100 percent there.
"Defensively, I think we played very strong, so she was able to have a little bit of time on some of the shots. Everything that she’s been working on, she did it perfectly tonight.”
Roemer was quick to credit her Mustang teammates for the performance.
“I think it was our defense tracking back, because at one point during the end of the game, they shifted four people up top,” Roemer said. “It was definitely our defense just staying with their marks, not letting them turn on the ball and hit it.”
Ralston Valley’s execution offensively, defensively and in goal buried last year’s state runner-up.
“We knew we had to come out and play aggressive, play controlled, and keep our composure and we were able to do it,” Morwood said. “We’ve been able to do that all year and win balls out of the air, keep control of it, and find our forwards up front.”
Ralston Valley will look to keep executing, keep playing free, and keep enjoying the ride deep into the 5A playoffs. The Mustangs will face No. 3 seed Pine Creek in the semifinals on Saturday, a team coming off a 1-0 win over Arapahoe in their quarterfinal matchup.
Pine Creek is another state championship favorite, but the Mustangs are a dangerous, confident new contender.
“We haven’t known anything about anyone we’ve played,” Morwood said with a laugh. “We’ve never been here so the pressure is not on our backs. One of our seniors’ favorite quotes is, ‘Play like you love soccer,’ and that’s what they’re doing as a total team.”
No. 4 Mountain Vista is unlike Ralston Valley. They do have pressure. The Golden Eagles are the defending state champions. Vista rose to the occasion in the nightcap at Shea Stadium with a 2-0 victory over No. 5 Fairview to keep their hopes for a second straight title alive.
Mountain Vista will play No. 8 Columbine on Saturday.
Both teams found a way to advance. For Mountain Vista, the win was expected. For Ralston Valley, the 10th-seeded Mustangs announced themselves as a new threat for the 5A crown, one that is embracing the unexpected run.
“It’s unbelievable,” Roemer said of the semifinals appearance. “We’ve never been here as a team before, even as a school in 5A, so it’s just amazing.”