AURORA – In each of the previous three seasons, Windsor’s girls soccer team saw its hopes of reaching the state championship game come up just short.
So given the opportunity Saturday afternoon to finally break through in the Class 4A state semifinals, the Wizards were not about to be denied. Alexa Kopren snapped a tie with the go-ahead score on a perfect cross with a little more than 24 minutes remaining, sending top-seeded Windsor to a 2-1 victory over Silver Creek at Legacy Stadium.
Windsor (18-0-1) will play No. 2 Valor Christian for the school’s first state championship at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.
“This is so incredible,” Kopren said. “We’re so blessed to get this opportunity.”
The semifinals had been a roadblock for Windsor in previous years. The Wizards lost to Lewis-Palmer and Valor Christian in 2015 and 2016, and fell 2-1 to Evergreen a year ago.
“I think the fact that they’ve been together so long, and to have gotten here the last three years, they really thought ‘this is really it. This is our last chance,’” Wizards coach Mario Garcia said. “There’s no five years in high school, so they knew this was it.
“They were going to push through. They were going to do whatever it takes to make it happen this year. Now we’re going to go try to win a state championship.”
Windsor controlled the first half, taking the 1-0 lead in the sixth minute on a penalty kick. After Meg Zimmerman was tripped in the box, Adalyn Vergara ripped her shot to the right of Raptors goalkeeper Kaeyla Noble.
Silver Creek (16-1-2), which was held without a shot on goal in the first, regained the momentum early in the second half. Alexa Karsel pushed a shot through the Windsor defense in the opening minutes to tie the game at 1-1.
“In previous years, that momentum, you have to have experience. You have to have been there before,” Garcia said. “I think our seniors realized ‘we’re OK.’”
Windsor went back up midway through the second half. Chaynee Kingsbury took the ball up the right sideline and sent a cross to the left. A trailing Noble was caught out of position and couldn’t recover in time, and Kopren sent a shot just inside the left post for the go-ahead goal.
“It was a perfect ball. I can’t believe it,” Kopren said. “It was perfect for me to play.”
The two teams had played to a 2-2 tie back on March 20, and Silver Creek nearly matched that score in the final minute. With 30 seconds remaining, Kate Eggen fired a long ball on goal, but keeper Michaela Moran made a leaping tip that pushed the ball off the crossbar. The ball fell back into play and was cleared before Silver Creek could get a second chance.
Now Windsor gets its first opportunity to play at DSG, though the Wizards aren’t about to be content with just making it to the final game of the season.
“We’re not getting there for nothing. We’re going to go there and we’re going to give (Valor Christian) everything we’ve got,” Garcia said. “We want to win.”
(2) Valor Christian 2, (6) Glenwood Springs 1
Kaleigh Kreimeyer has been a postseason wonder for Valor Christian.
The Eagles sophomore only scored two regular-season goals, but found the back of the net four times in the team’s first three 4A state playoff games. On Saturday, Kreimeyer struck again, breaking a scoreless tie with in the 27th minute.
That score held up as second-seeded Valor Christian defeated Glenwood Springs 2-1 in the 4A state semifinals at Legacy Stadium.
Valor (12-3-3) advanced to Wednesday’s championship game and will face top-seeded Windsor for the 4A state championship. It marks the second title-game appearance in three seasons for the Eagles, who haven’t won a state championship since 2011.
Coming off a 1-0 victory over Jeffco League rival Evergreen last Wednesday – a game in which Kreimeyer scored the only goal – the Eagles controlled the tempo in the first half against the Demons (16-3). With less than 14 minutes remaining in the first half, Kreimeyer stole the ball in the right corner and somehow slipped a shot between Glenwood Springs goalkeeper Hannah Juul and the right post.
Ryan Winningham added an insurance goal in the 50th minute, launching a long ball that just eluded a diving Juul inside the left post.
Glenwood Springs put its first shot on goal in the 69th minute and made it count. Natalya Taylor sent in a bouncing ball that eluded Valor keeper Alexandra Daws. The Demons were a player down after leading scorer Eryn Peterson received a red card with a little more than 23 minutes remaining.