COMMERCE CITY — The foundation for what took place Tuesday night was laid down last May.
Jefferson Academy’s girls soccer team entered the 2017 state tournament as the No. 1 seed, only to see their bid for a trip to the state championship game denied in the semifinals.
So given another opportunity this spring – and as the top seed again, no less – the Jaguars made the most of their second chance. Jefferson Academy had to outlast Metro League rival Kent Denver in a shootout at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, but the team knocked home all four of its chance and came away with the program’s first state title by virtue of a 4-1 advantage in penalty kicks.
“It’s literally the best thing ever,” said Jefferson Academy junior Mira Houck, who converted the deciding shot that set off a massive celebration. “This was everyone’s goal from the beginning of the school year. Even before we started practicing, we were like ‘we are going to win state this year.’
“Coming off a No. 1 seed we knew that was going to be hard. Everyone was going to try and knock us off, and we were still able to do it.”
Jefferson Academy (16-2-1) was playing for the second state title in school history after losing to Colorado Academy in 2015. The Jaguars lost to Kent Denver and Colorado Academy during the regular season, but stormed through the first two rounds of state before holding off Aspen 1-0 in the semifinals to reach Tuesday’s game.
“I think getting through the Final Four was actually a bigger burden off of our shoulders,” Jags coach Denise Sutton said. “We knew that we were playing a fantastic team coming in. We knew it could go either way. It’s just amazing to experience this with this group of girls.”
Kent Denver (16-2-1) was trying to win its second title in three years. The Sun Devils tied the game up with a little more than 20 minutes in regulation Tuesday but couldn’t solve Jaguars goalkeeper Brooklynn Kirkpatrick in either overtime.
Two of the team’s attempts in the shootout were off-target, allowing Jefferson Academy to close it out.
“We have an extreme amount of respect for Kent Denver. They’re an amazing program,” Sutton said. “(Coach) Krista (Pearman) is just a great person, a great human being.
“They’re a great team. We fought for it, but we lucked out.”
With the score locked at 1-1 after 80 minutes, the two teams engaged in a pair of 15-minute overtimes. Sun Devils sophomore Mika Fisher stopped four shots in the two extra sessions, and Kirkpatrick made a great save after a breakaway from Sun Devils sophomore Annabelle Johnson.
Kara Dobbs, Bridget Lynch and Denae Lamb each converted penalty kicks for Jefferson Academy, setting up Houck to put the game away.
“I’m not going to lie, I was so nervous!” Houck said. “We were all saying on the sidelines ‘we’ve each just got to make this one, this one, this one.’ I wanted to do my part for the team.”
Fisher finished with five saves and Kirkpatrick recorded four for the Jaguars.
“Brooklynn is an amazing goalie. She does a really good job, she keeps her patience,” Sutton said. “She just is a great leader back there. For her age she’s a very confident goalie.”
After a scoreless first half, Jefferson Academy took the lead in the 44th minute on a goal from Rachel Schlagel. Johnson tied it up 15 minutes later, taking a perfect cross from Riley DiGiulio and punching it past Kirkpatrick.