COLORADO SPRINGS — Starting in 2012, the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference was the dominant league for girls soccer. Five-straight Class 4A state championships were won by three different teams from the PPAC.
In the last two years, the championship has eluded the Colorado Springs-based league. D’Evelyn and Windsor brought home 4A titles in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
From the looks of things, the PPAC is itching to get its hands back on championship gold. Only, it might be a new set of hands raising the trophy.
Sand Creek - the top-ranked team in 4A - has been on a tear in 2019, winning its first eight games of the year which included a 2-0 win over Cheyenne Mountain in Wednesday’s PPAC opener. It was coach Jeremy Tafoya’s first win over Cheyenne Mountain in his five years as coach of the Scorpions.
“My daughter played four years here and was the superstar,” Tafoya said. "If there was one game she had circled it was this one. In four years she had two overtime losses by a goal and a 3-2 loss. They're not our rivals, but in my mind they are."
It was Zoey Shank who put the Scorpions (8-0 overall, 1-0 PPAC) on the board in the 14th minute. She was able to get by the Cheyenne Mountain defenders and fire a shot at an angle that gave Indians keeper Ashley Bertsch no shot at it.
Cheyenne Mountain (0-4, 0-1) almost tied the game on a free kick from Carly Fetters. The Northern Colorado commit drew the ball to the top-right corner, but Lexi Montero got herself in position to make the save at the last second.
"Since I'm a short goalkeeper I have to make sure my angles are correct," Montero said. "Knowing where the ball is going and knowing I can get there on time, I can make a save and make a fast play to the offense which has happened many times."
That was much of the story in the first half. The Indians seemed to be on the attack more consistently and gave themselves more opportunities to strike. The only problem is that they couldn’t convert on any of them. Sand Creek, on the other hand, was able to take advantage of their limited chances in the first 40 minutes.
Sophomore Sydney Lasater pushed the lead to 2-0 in the 26th minute which helped the Scorpions play more comfortably to start the second half.
“As long as we can stay organized defensively and then when we have the chance to go forward we have to take advantage of it,” senior Jaden Davis said. "We're going to forward and we're going to score goals."
Lasater’s goal was her 24th of the year which puts her in a tie with Stargate’s Kayla Futakami for most in the state. The Scorpions as a team have only allowed five all year. The team scores at a clip of over eight goals a game, showing a respectful balance between offense and defense.
It’s the kind of combination that leads to deep playoff runs.
“It helps level out the team overall,” Davis added.
Sand Creek had a successful 11-4-1 campaign a year ago but was edged out by Battle Mountain in the first round of the 4A state tournament. What has helped this season is that there were no seniors on the roster a year ago.
This core group of girls has been playing together since they were kids and with a combination of skill and chemistry taking hold, Tafoya has high expectations for these girls.
"I set the tone from the start," Tafoya said. "I told them that anything less than a state title is a disappointment. And they know. I honestly believe I have the best team."