Evergreen girls soccer defeats rival Wheat Ridge, advances to 4A state quarters

Evergreen players celebrate a first-half goal against Wheat Ridge in the Class 4A girls soccer 2nd round game at Lakewood Memorial Field. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

LAKEWOOD — Evergreen and Wheat Ridge girls soccer teams had been here before.

The Class 4A Jeffco League teams faced off in the Class 4A state tournament quarterfinals a year ago with Evergreen hanging on to a 2-1 victory that led to an eventual state runner-up finish. The two conference rivals met up again in the postseason Saturday at Lakewood Memorial Field, this time in the second round.

Evergreen freshman Jocelin Zimmerer, left, battles with Wheat Ridge junior Paloma Rodello during the first half. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“You are just excited to be in the (state) tournament and have the opportunity. You kind of takes what comes,” said Wheat Ridge coach Dan Watkins when asked if he was disappointed to have to face the Cougars so early in the playoffs. “Evergreen is a good team and we were going to have to play really well to get through. We just didn’t do enough today.”

No. 7-seeded Evergreen (12-5 record) got goals from seniors Lauryn Jeans and Sydney Westgard six minutes apart in the opening 20 minutes of play against No. 10 Wheat Ridge. The Cougars’ defense and junior goalie Sarah Straut were able to keep the Farmers (11-6) off the scoreboard in a 2-0 victory for Evergreen.

“Our conference prepares us for games like this,” said Evergreen coach Peter Jeans who guided the Cougars to a 2-1 victory over the Farmers earlier this season in conference play. “Wheat Ridge never quits. The last 10 minutes we hung on for dear life. We were fortunate to get the win.”

Evergreen didn’t waste any time getting up on Wheat Ridge. Senior Lauryn Jeans — Coach Jeans’s daughter — rocked a shot into the back of the net in the 10th minute.

“The midfielders have been working on that shot, but it was lucky too,” Jeans admitted of her goal. “It was my left foot and I’m normally right.”

Six minutes later, Westgard fired a shot that got through Wheat Ridge goalie Morgan Davis in the 16th minute to put the Cougars up 2-0.

“It definitely gave us a cushion,” Jeans said of Westgard’s goal. “We know Wheat Ridge is a great team. We knew they definitely could still come back.”

Evergreen junior Luisa Weiner (6) and Wheat Ridge senior Rylie Pachello (15) fight over control of the ball. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Wheat Ridge senior Macie Browne led the offensive charge by the Farmers as time started to run on out the season for Wheat Ridge. However, the Farmers couldn’t get a goal to put more pressure on Evergreen.

“When you fall behind you are going to be up against it,” Watkins said. “You are going to have to compete and battle. It makes the game more challenging and more difficult. I’m really proud of our kids. They continued to put pressure on during the second half and created a few chances.”

Evergreen moves on into the quarterfinals Wednesday, May 16, where the Cougars face the winner of No. 18 The Classical Academy and No. 2 Valor Christian. That second-round game was played late Saturday night in Highlands Ranch.

“We’ll play whoever comes our way,” Coach Jeans said of the Cougars’ quarterfinal match. “We have to have a couple of great days of training and then a great game again.”

Of course there is the motivation for the Cougars of having advanced to the 4A title game last year, only to have Jeffco rival D’Evelyn come out on top with a 1-0 victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

“It’s huge,” Jeans said of the experience last year of making the 4A title game. “Just getting to the final is amazing. Of course I want to get back and win. We aren’t looking toward the final yet. We are looking toward the next game.”

Evergreen sophomore Sofie Cochran (2) and Wheat Ridge senior Macie Browne (3) work on settling the ball down during the state playoff game Saturday at Lakewood Memorial Field. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)