Rivarly between No. 10 St. Mary's girls soccer and No. 6 Manitou Springs brings out best in both teams

Manitou Springs St. Mary's girls soccer

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

COLORADO SPRINGS — Lexie Friend's first varsity soccer goal comes with a great story. It gave St. Mary's a 1-0 win. That win came against rival Manitou Springs. The Pirates are ranked 10th in the Class 3A CHSAANow.com rankings. The Mustangs are No. 6.

That's what makes the game between the traditional Tri-Peaks rivals so much fun every year. They're intense, competitive and at the end of the day, either team can come away with a win regardless of where they are in the rankings or the standings.

"I think that's why you play the game, I know that's why I coach, for games like this," Manitou Springs coach Ben Mack said. "I love these kinds of games. I'm not frustrated. Of course I want to win, but I'd rather play these games any day of the week."

The Mustangs (9-2 overall) have been on fire recently. Coming into Saturday's game, they had scored an average of seven goals per game and had given up just two total on the year. One came at the hands of Jefferson Academy in a 1-0 loss earlier this season, the only other regular season loss.

The Pirates (9-2) haven't been too shabby themselves. Their only losses have been to Holy Family and Mullen. And like the Mustangs, the St. Mary's defense doesn't give up a lot goals. Holding the Mustangs scoreless might just be their biggest accomplishment to date in 2018.

Manitou Springs St. Mary's girls soccer

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

"It was really well-played game," St. Mary's coach Gregg Braha said. "Manitou is really good, they're not 9-2 by accident. (Our back line) is very organized and it starts with the goal keeper (Becca Dunbaugh). She organizes them back there."

The importance of that organization became apparent after Friend's goal in the 30th minute to put the Pirates up a goal.

It was Friend's first goal as a varsity player. Braha was so excited he bolted into the stands to congratulate her father, Air Force women's head soccer coach Larry Friend. The importance of the goal isn't lost on the junior, despite her not having anything to compare it to.

"I'm sure eventually I'll find another goal to be able to compare it to," she said. "But right now, that's probably my best goal (of my life)."

Knowing the pressure was going to be on the Mustangs in the second half, St. Mary's refused to go conservative and instead focused on attacking rather than defending.

While the teams don't play in the same league, Graha and his girls knew the importance of getting this win on this cold, cloudy day.

"We were told to keep the pressure up as high as we can," Friend said.

It was just the third regular season loss in the last two years for Manitou. With four games left before the start of the postseason, the Mustangs need to get back to what's made them dominant most of this year.

"I think this game showed us what we have to work on," junior Caileen Sienknecht said. "We have to sharpen up and this is going to be a teaching moment."

With just under five minutes remaining, Sienknecht came up from the mid-field and found herself on a breakaway. The Pirates closed in defensively and the scoring opportunity was lost, although the Manitou bench felt a penalty shot should have been awarded.

But there is no crying over spilled milk as far as Sienknecht is concerned.

"It's just one of those days we have to put behind us and move on," she said.

And move on they shall. The Mustangs have three tough games remaining before their regular season finale against Colorado Springs Christian School, a game likely to decide a league championship.

The Pirates also have three games left in the regular season, starting with a long road trip to Lamar on Monday.