3A girls soccer: Colorado Academy, Jefferson Academy advance to championship

Colorado Academy Prospect Ridge Academy girls soccer

(Cannon Casey/CHSAANow.com)

ENGLEWOOD — It'll come down to Colorado Academy and Jefferson Academy in the championship of the Class 3A girls soccer state tournament.

Colorado Academy edged Prospect Ridge Academy 2-0, then Jefferson Academy followed with its own 2-0 win over Kent Denver.

Jefferson Academy beat Colorado Academy earlier this year, 1-0. The two teams will play for the Class 3A title Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

(1) Colorado Academy 2, (13) Prospect Ridge Academy 0

Colorado Academy Prospect Ridge Academy girls soccer

(Cannon Casey/CHSAANow.com)

Mari Annest knocked it in off the post to open it up. Then, Maya Pellegrini added the dagger three minutes later to send Colorado Academy to the Class 3A title game.

"It was about time we put one away," Annest said after the game. "It was great service from (Pellegrini)."

Pellegrini was active offensively, trying multiple times to set Annest up with an opportunity.

Colorado Academy advanced with a controlled attack, continually chipping away — sometimes quite literally — at the goal. Including Annest's goal off the post, the Mustangs heard the clang of the crossbar and posts four separate times.

"It was definitely a really frustrating first half," Annest said. "We were putting a lot of pressure on ourselves and rushing forward."

All it took to ease the frustration was a talk from head coach Sean Stedeford at halftime.

"At halftime, our coaches talked to us about calming down and playing our game," Annest said. "We play a really good possession-style soccer, and that actually led to us getting that corner."

And all it took to fully erase the frustration was the result of that corner — an Annest header off the near post and into the back of the net. It was her 37th goal of the season.

"Not just from a coaching standpoint, but from a team standpoint, it sort of calmed the nerves a little bit of like, 'Ok, we're alright," Stedeford said.

After making its way to the Class 3A semifinals with two double-overtime wins in a row, Prospect Ridge Academy couldn't find the goal against a rock-solid Colorado Academy defense.

"We're incredibly organized," Annest said. "Our defenders, midfielders, and goalkeeper do an amazing job. They're super organized in the back. They've been super solid all year, so props to them."

This season, Colorado Academy (18-1) has allowed just five goals in 19 games.

Colorado Academy threatened early and often, starting with an opportunity in the 13th minute by Pellegrini. Pellegrini got in on goal, but Prospect Ridge Academy's Linda Leahy stopped her shot.

Colorado Academy and Pellegrini continued to apply pressure in the 16th minute. Pellegrini set up Annest with a cross in front of the net, but Leahy stoned Annest. 

Leahy had 20 saves in the semifinal game.

"We had a great lions share of the possession," Stedeford said. "Had great attempts on goal, couple big time saves, couple posts. That first half could be completely different."

The Mustangs continued their offensive flurry in the second half as Britt Lochhead's shot hit off the far post, and minutes later Catie Groves sent a shot off the crossbar in the 51st minute. Lochhead continued the barrage on the goalposts with a header off a corner kick straight into the crossbar. 

Colorado Academy beat Prospect Ridge Academy 10-0 in April. The Mustangs were played much closer earlier in the season against the two teams on the other side of the bracket, Kent Denver and Jefferson Academy. Colorado Academy came away with a 2-0 win against Kent Denver, and lost 1-0 to Jefferson Academy (the Mustangs' only loss this year).

"Prospect Ridge put up a big time fight," Stedeford said. "That was a bit unexpected for our girls, but I think the resilience that that group had shown in previous rounds came through today."

Colorado Academy last played in the championship in 2016 — a 3-1 loss to Kent Denver.

(3) Jefferson Academy 2, (2) Kent Denver 0

Kent Denver Jefferson Academy girls soccer

(Cannon Casey/CHSAANow.com)

Jefferson Academy beat Kent Denver 2-0 in a rematch of last year's Class 3A championship game that went to penalty kicks. 

Sarah Spitz wasted no time as she squeezed a shot through the hands of Mika Fisher in the fifth minute after the Jaguars were flying into the box, peppering the Kent Denver goal.

Taylor Franco extended the Jefferson Academy lead to 2-0 toward the end of the first half. Minutes later, Brooklynn Kirkpatrick made a terrific diving save off of a deflected shot in the 40th minute to keep the 2-0 Jefferson Academy lead heading into halftime.

The Jaguars survived yet another Kent Denver attack in the second half to keep the shutout with a shot off the crossbar, a rebounded shot, and eventually a kick-save from a defender.

The early attack from Jefferson Academy held up and advanced the Jaguars into the title game.

Kent Denver beat Jefferson Academy 1-0 in the first meeting between the two teams.