COMMERCE CITY — Cheyenne Mountain is used to this winning thing.
One of the most successful sports schools in Colorado with 88 state championships, second behind only Cherry Creek, Cheyenne Mountain captured its fourth team title this spring with the Class 4A girls soccer crown over Lewis-Palmer 2-1 on penalty kicks.
The Indians became the first program in any classification to win three consecutive in girls soccer, an impressive stat, made even more so when considering how they accomplished the feat.
In a classic, the Indians made six consecutive penalty kicks before goalie Stephanie Deines dived to her right to stop Jenny Allenspach's shot, setting off their celebration. Brooke Miller scored what proved to be the winning penalty kick.
To get to that point they had to overcome an unrelenting Lewis-Palmer attack during regulation and in both overtimes and attrition in a physical game against a Pikes Peak conference and city rival, not to mention a Ranger team that had outscored their opponents 70-7 heading into the state finals.
They did all that and more Wednesday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park thanks to the talents of senior forward Hannah Gerdin, who had the lone regulation goal in the 29th minute, and goalie Deines, a senior who played limited minutes as a backup behind Hunter Peifer last season.
Peifer returned for her fourth season, as well, after earning second team all-state honors as a junior, but the University of South Carolina recruit suffered a season ending injury before the opener.
Deines stepped in and proved to be the closer for a Cheyenne Mountain three-peat.
“I’m so happy for her,” coach Tomas Martinez said. “With that injury to Hunter, Stephanie just stepped up and took care of business. I could not be more proud of somebody.”
“This team, most of us came off the bench last year,” Deines added. “The fact that we get to come out here and win our own one is super exciting.”
Cheyenne Mountain, also the champions of 4A girls tennis, boys swimming and diving, and girls golf, have now finished the year first in four of nine spring sports.
Oh, and by the way, they have repeated as champions in three of those sports with seven consecutive girls tennis crowns, three straight girls golf titles, and now back-to-back-to-back girls soccer championships.
To say 2015 has been a success for the school in Colorado Springs would be an understatement.
But the Indians, in claiming their sixth crown in girls soccer, only Arapahoe (nine) has more, actually started the season 2-5 with losses to 5A Fossil Ridge, Valor Christian, The Classical Academy, Evergreen, and 5A Pine Creek.
The losses were forgivable as Evergreen, Valor, and TCA reached the 4A postseason, and Fossil and Pine Creek made 5A playoff appearances, but unusual for Cheyenne Mountain in recent years.
The Indians graduated a loaded group from a team that went unbeaten in 2014. It took time to gel, to reload, and after winning only two of their first seven games, they went unbeaten in their final 13.
Cheyenne Mountain earned the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and Lewis-Palmer garnered the No. 8. The teams tied for the conference championship and saw their regular season showdown finish in a scoreless double overtime tie.
Despite being the higher seed, coach Martinez felt the Rangers were the slight favorites.
“It’s nice to kind of be the underdog coming in,” he said. “Even though we were the higher seed, with their numbers and their stats and starting the way we did and rallying the way we did this season, I couldn’t be more proud.”
After the game was over, sentiments were the same for both Cheyenne Mountain’s players and their coach. They enjoyed taking on a rival, one they have great respect for, but they didn’t want to give up the title of being the best in the state and in their city.
“It’s great that it’s going back to the springs either way, but I didn’t want them being the new kid on the block and setting the tone for the springs,” Martinez said. “We still want to run Colorado Springs, if we can.”
Cheyenne Mountain finished with a 14-5-1 record. They will graduate Gerdin, a first team all-state honoree in 2014 and their leading scorer this year with 24 goals. Deines will also be gone, as will several other contributors on the varsity. But the Indians will have Lauren Jones (17 goals) and a great young core back. They will likely be favored to win their fourth consecutive state championship.
Lewis-Palmer, which actually outplayed Cheyenne Mountain for much of the game, struggled capitalizing on their many scoring opportunities. The Rangers had nine corner kicks in the first half, but no goals.
Anna Donisi, a sophomore forward, did come up with the equalizer in the 52nd minute. The Rangers closed their season with a 17-2-1 record and will be looking to build off their first finals appearance, seventh overall, since 2001 with a very capable group of their own returning. Sophomore Brianna Alger (24 goals) was one of 4A’s top players this season.