COMMERCE CITY — The combination of a timely substitution and a little bit of sage advice added up to the biggest moment of the season for Grandview’s girls soccer team.
Locked in a scoreless tie in overtime with Broomfield on Wednesday night in the Class 5A state championship game, Wolves coach Tari Wood put sophomore Caylin Lyubenko back into the game just a few minutes into the extra session. Junior Shalom Prince unloaded her spinning throw-in from the sidelines – heeding the placement advice of her coach – and Lyubenko somehow looped a high shot that tucked under the crossbar to give Grandview the 1-0 victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and its third 5A state title over the past four seasons.
Lyubenko had just re-entered the game in the previous minute. She said someone tipped the ball off the throw-in and she decided to go for it.
“It went backwards, so I was like I might as well just try and kick it,” Lyubenko said. “I kicked it over my head and it went in.”
Nobody was happier with that decision than Wood.
“I cannot tell you how many times I’ve screamed at her to run through with her body,” the coach said. “She did that with what I call a ‘chicken leg’ and it just happened.
“I don’t think anybody could see it. I don’t think the goalkeeper could see it … it just happened.”
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That set off a wild celebration as players stormed the field to mob Lyubenko. The shutout was the third of the postseason for Grandview (17-0-3), which had to rally from an early deficit in the semifinals just to make it to Commerce City.
“We went down 2-0 in that semifinal (against Mountain Vista) and it was kind of after that, it was like ‘OK, let’s just go play,’” Wood said. “This is definitely the icing on the cake.”
Like Grandview, Broomfield (18-1-1) had its fair share of chances on the evening as well. The Eagles finished with seven shots on goal, and senior goalkeeper Grace Fuller made three saves and came up big on several occasions. Broomfield’s back line was up to the task against a Grandview offense that had scored 21 goals in the first four playoff contests.
“Phenomenal job by both (teams),” Wood said. “The keepers didn’t have to do a whole lot.
“I thought Broomfield was a little more physical than we were. (Broomfield senior Hailey) Stodden is a stud. I thought my girls did a phenomenal job staying in front of her and keeping her minimized and the people who ran off the ball from her.”
Grandview’s keeper combo of senior Reagan McCombs and junior Maddie Livingston turned away the Eagles several times, and the Wolves’ defense was a stalwart in front of them.
The Eagles put four shots on McCombs in the first half – twice she jumped up and pushed the ball over the crossbar, the latter of which came on a laser from Mallory Mooney with 38 seconds remaining in the first half.
Livingston made three saves in the second half. The duo split time throughout the season, an arrangement that wasn’t always easy.
“Maddie and I are really good friends and we’re really close. It’s definitely been a challenge for me this season, just knowing it’s not only me anymore,” McCombs said. “But I trust her and I’m glad that we work together well. I think we do good things together.”
Grandview allowed only eight goals in 20 games. McCombs, one of five seniors on the roster, said the credit belongs to the players in front of her.
“A lot of people are like ‘oh the goalies are so good.’ It’s all our defense,” McCombs said. “It’s our defense 100 percent. We wouldn’t be anywhere without them. I’m definitely very lucky to have such a great defensive line.”
Broomfield will graduate nine seniors off of an 18-win team, including Stodden, who finished her senior season with 30 goals.
As for Grandview’s seniors, they will be at the Ritchie Center at the University of Denver at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday for graduation. Wood said she doubted anyone would get much sleep Wednesday night.
“I’m so happy and I can’t wait to celebrate with my team,” Lyubenko said. “It’s so surreal. I’m still in shock from it.”