DENVER — For the third consecutive season, it'll come down to Dawson and Denver Christian to decide the Class 2A girls soccer title.
Each school won in Wednesday's semifinal round, with Dawson beating Crested Butte 5-1, and Denver Christian topping Cornerstone Christian 2-0.
The title match is set for 5 p.m. next Tuesday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
(2) Dawson 5, (6) Crested Butte 1
Less than four minutes in, Kate Gallop took a deep breath, walked off the field, grabbed some water, and stared down a penalty kick.
"It was definitely one of those moments, where I was like, 'OK, I need to remove myself from where I'm at. I need to just breathe in,'" the senior goalkeeper at Dawson said.
She made the save, and seized momentum in the process. Dawson scored the opening goal of its semifinal against Crested Butte 15 minutes later, and went on to win 5-1.
It was that save which proved to be the spark for the Mustangs.
Gallop has spent extra time working on PKs during recent practices. Coach Dave Criswell estimated that she's taken at least 300 over the past four or five days.
She said it helped her confidence in that moment on Wednesday evening.
"I just treated it like practice," she said. "We've definitely been shooting a lot of PKs. I was so used to the setup — and my coach had even used a whistle in practice, just to get into the routine of it, know what's going to happen. Everyone's been getting really great at taking them, and so I have to get better at stopping them because they're better shots."
Said Criswell: "The last four years, I've never see a player work harder at her craft than Kate. And to see where she's come, it's awesome. ... It was just so fulfilling to see her save that. Those are obviously a boost to the team. We picked the momentum up there."
Degen Miller's right foot broke a scoreless tie 15 minutes after the save. The Dawson sophomore added a second goal later in the first half, and senior Cameron Epstein scored twice early in the second half.
"We've been talking about the first 10 minutes of every game, and every half, should be the highest intensity we can," Criswell said. "It was awesome to see. They kept it going the whole time. They're driven."
Miller's first goal came after she cut toward midfield and lofted a shot from 24 yards out with 21:16 to play in the first half. It went over the head of Crested Butte goalkeeper Anika Andersen and found the back of the goal.
She added to the lead a little more than 15 minutes later with a second goal. It was her 31st goal of the season, and fifth of the postseason. She now has 10 multi-goal games this season.
Epstein gave her team a 3-0 lead with 30:27 left, and Crested Butte had a quick answer: Tess Fenerty's long shot cut the lead to 3-1 a minute later.
But Dawson had an answer of its own. Epstein scored again, this time with 28:27 to play, made it 4-1. She now has 20 goals this season.
Dawson's Kaitlyn Day scored with 7:32 to play to account for the final score.
The two teams hadn't met since the semifinal round last season, a 3-0 Dawson win.
This will be the fifth-consecutive appearance in a championship game for Dawson, which has been to every title match since 2A was created in 2015. The Mustangs are defending champions.
"Having a target on our backs has been a lot," Gallop said. "Every team when they're playing us, they bring their A game, they're really prepared. But it's also helped us get better, I think, and helped us stay motivated because we know we can't have an off day. We can't stay where we're at. We have to keep getting better, too, as other people keep getting better around us."
(1) Denver Christian 2, (5) Cornerstone Christian 0
In a tight game, Grace Phillipps broke through with a goal early in the second half, and Denver Christian's defense did the rest en route to a semifinal win.
The Thunder beat Cornerstone Christian 2-0 to reach the 2A title game for the third consecutive season.
Denver Christian controlled possession much of the first half, and created a number of chances — including a shot off the post — but nothing broke through.
Until, that is, Phillips' goal, which came 1:08 into the second half.
Holland Reece added a goal with under two minutes to go to seal the win.
It was the team's second meeting this season. Denver Christian won 5-1 on April 15.