Ralston Valley girls soccer pulls off remarkable comeback in state tourney

ARVADA — It wasn’t looking promising late in the first-round Class 5A girls soccer playoff game for No. 14-seeded Ralston Valley on Tuesday.

Despite dominating in possession and scoring chances, the Mustangs trailed a gritty No. 19 Grand Junction squad 1-0 with less than a minute remaining in regulation-time.

Ralston Valley seniors Brooklyn Garrido and Maddie DeHerrera embrace after Garrido's game-winning overtime goal Tuesday at NAAC. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“It’s very familiar,” Ralston Valley coach Kamee Morwood said of the Mustangs staring at a close first-round loss before rallying for a 2-1 overtime victory at the North Area Athletic Complex. “When I looked up and there was five minutes left I was like ‘oh no’. But that is how these games go. Their goalie played fantastic. Thankfully we came out on the other side of it today.”

Saya Sabus was the hero in the final minute for Ralston Valley (11-3-2 record).

“She (Sabus) is just a competitor,” Morwood said. “This group of seniors has done a great job of bringing along the younger kids. They love them and play for them. They didn’t want this to be the last game playing together.”

The freshman settled a ball just outside the Tigers’ goalie box, found some open space and her left-footed kick hoisted the ball just under the crossbar and out of the reach of Grand Junction junior goalie Isa Sanchez.

Ralston Valley senior Jenna Bishop (9) and Grand Junction sophomore Malia Yang (6) both go up for a header during the first-round playoff game Tuesday at NAAC. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“We didn’t want to lose,” Sabus said. “That is what probably drove most of our shots and our two goals. We didn’t want to go home and our seniors wanted to play another game.”

Seniors Brooklyn Garrido and Maddie DeHerrera were instrumental in the game-winning goal eight minutes into the overtime period.

With the Tigers (10-5-1) a player down after taking a red card just following the goal by Sabus, Ralston Valley continued to put pressure on Sanchez. DeHerrera had dropped the ball off to Garrido, who fired a shot toward the far post and past Sanchez for the game winner.

“I was pretty nervous, but at the same time I had so much adrenaline,” Garrido said about kicking in the game-winning goal. “I only had one option and that was to shoot.”

Ralston Valley senior Brooklyn Garrido (10) battles with Grand Junction senior Tatum Niemeyer during the first half Tuesday at the NAAC. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Garrido and DeHerrera embraced as the rest of the Mustangs joined in the celebration.

“I was not ready to be done. We’ve worked too hard,” Garrido said. “We should have had three goals in the first half. To lose would have been absolutely terrible. We pulled it off.”

Ralston Valley had suffered first-round losses twice in the previous three seasons. The win moves the Mustangs into a second-round test against No. 3 Fruita-Monument. The Wildcats (13-3) defeated Brighton 4-1 on the Western Slope late-Tuesday afternoon.

“We’ll make it fun,” Morwood said of the second-round game at Fruita-Monument. “We’ll get a charter bus and head on out there.”

Grand Junction sophomore Katy Coffin (4) broke a scoreless tie early in the second half with a goal in the 43rd minute. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

The second-round game will be played Friday, May 10.

Grand Junction nearly had a chance to face rival Fruita-Monument in the second round. The Tigers, who were actually winless on the season just a few years ago in 2016, nearly grabbed a playoff victory in more than a decade.

Sophomore Katy Coffin scored in the 43rd minute after a scoreless first half. Coffin long shot was tipped by Ralston Valley sophomore goalie Lilly VanAlsburg, but ended up in the back of the net.

Ralston Valley sophomore Kendall Garrido (4) and Grand Junction sophomore Dolcie Hanlon (12) chase after a loose ball during the Class 5A girls soccer first-round state playoff game Tuesday at the NAAC. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)