MONUMENT — The battle of the state's top two field hockey teams was every bit as intense as one could imagine. And, like any game between two squads who are so evenly matched, it all came down to who made the first mistake.
Palmer Ridge finally cracked and while trying to clear a Colorado Academy scoring rush. The ball was cleared right in front of the Bears' net and found its way right onto Nellie Turnage's stick.
With the first clean look of the game, she buried the shot to give the Mustangs (4-0 overall, 3-0 in league) a 1-0 lead that would hold on to be the final score Saturday afternoon at Don Breese Stadium.
"I just got the ball and aimed for the corner," Turnage said. "They're a really good team so I'm happy in went in, but they put up a great fight and I'm looking forward to playing them again this season."
It was difficult for either team to find shots early in the game. The Bears (3-1, 2-1) controlled the ball for most of the first half, but couldn't find any room to get a shot off.
When the Mustangs were able to gain possession, they were getting much better looks at the net. They nearly gained an early lead as Maddie Webster drew Palmer Ridge goalie Sophia Parker out of the net and tried to loft a shot over her head. Parker wasn't fooled and knocked the ball away to keep the game scoreless.
"The positive thing is that Maddie knew to pull (the ball) back out," Mustangs coach Veroncia Scott. "That's what I was happy with, that we didn't try to annihilate the goalkeeper with our sticks."
It looked like the first half was going to end without either team registering a goal until Turnage intercepted an attempted clear and put the Mustangs up with 2:02 left in the half.
After the break, the teams once again came out very stingy on the defensive side. Colorado Academy was able to pressure a little more on the offensive side of the ball, but like the Bears in the first half, they didn't get too many clean looks at the net.
Possessing the ball was a key factor in killing the clock, but the Bears were able to get one final rush to try and tie the game, but to no avail.
"Our nemesis is putting the ball in the net," Bears coach Paul Lewis said. "Once these girls get that figured out, I don't think there's any team in the state that can really hang with us."
The Mustangs, who have won 45 consecutive games, took over the top spot from the Bears in this week's CHSAANow field hockey poll and showed that they were worthy of getting those votes for the top spot.
But Scott won't let this win trickle into the heads of the Mustangs and they'll get right back to work and prepare for the next one.
"It's a positive, but I'm very much about one game at a time," Scott said. "This is great and we can utilize this see what we need to work on, but it’s a new game next week."