PARKER – Two years ago, Arapahoe’s girls soccer team made the Class 5A state championship game as a No. 12 seed before falling just short of the school’s 10th title.
This Wednesday night, the Warriors will find themselves in the same position, but with a chance at redemption. For the second time in three years Arapahoe made the 5A title game as the 12th seed, and will have another go at a 10th crown when it faces Centennial League rival Grandview at 7 p.m. at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.
The defending champion Wolves defeated No. 14 Ralston Valley 1-0.
“The senior group that we have this year learned so much from that crew,” Warriors coach Mark Hampshire said after his team weathered a 75-minute lightning delay and overcame a second-half deficit to defeat Rocky Mountain 3-2 on Saturday in the 5A semifinals at EchoPark Stadium.
“They watched the camaraderie, they watched the work ethic. They watched them have a lot of fun. The culture that we have here at Arapahoe really kind of feeds season to season – we don’t start new. We just kind of reload.”
Lauren Walter scored both the tying goal and the game-winner for Arapahoe (15-3-1) with less than 12 minutes remaining Saturday. The Warriors had tied the semifinal up at 2-2 in the 60th minute, benefiting from an own goal after Walter’s shot was deflected into the net by a Rocky Mountain defender.
Eight minutes later Walter found the back of the net after a strong throw-in from teammate Ryan Renshaw.
“It was all Ry Renshaw’s throw-in. She has a really big arm, and so we all just kind of wanted it,” Walter said. “We’ve been practicing all season for getting the head on and getting the flick. So when she threw it and some of the defenders missed it, I knew it was wide open. I just went for it.”
Arapahoe twice fell behind the Lobos Saturday on similar plays. Rocky Mountain (13-5-1) scored both of its goal off corner kicks, with Madison Hand heading both balls into the back of the net after Warriors goalkeeper Grace Cadorette made spectacular saves that led to the set pieces.
Hand’s second goal came only five minutes after the teams were forced into the locker room for a pair of lightning delays. The teams were two minutes from resuming play after the first delay, only to have to exit the field for another lightning strike in the vicinity.
When play resumed, Hand broke free and had a one-on-one opportunity that a diving Cadorette deflected out. Hand followed that up with a strong finish off the set piece.
“After Grace made such a great save, to kind of lose a little mental focus – in our game, all it takes is one mental breakdown, and it can change the game,” Hampshire said. “Great credit to Rocky Mountain. They are a fantastic team. They obviously work on their set pieces – probably the best we’ve seen so far this year.”
Hand and Arapahoe’s Audrey Weiss scored off set pieces midway through the first half, with Weiss’ goal coming just 41 seconds after the Lobos took the lead.
Arapahoe hasn’t won a state championship since 2006, falling in the title game in 2010 and 2017. The boys team won the 5A crown last fall after defeating Grandview.
“It’s a lot of fun to see the girls be resilient and be a bright spot for the school,” Hampshire said. “They’ve worked so hard. We went through a hard spot with three losses in a row, and the seniors in particular – great leadership from all of them – they said ‘hey, we’re not finishing this way.’”
Wolves seeking fourth title in five years
It took a while to penetrate a stingy Ralston Valley defense, but the ball finally bounced the way of Shalom Prince and her Grandview teammates.
Prince had a shot stopped in the 53rd minute of the second half, but the rebound went right back to the senior. Prince took advantage of the empty net, giving the Wolves the lead and the eventual 1-0 victory over 14th-seeded Ralston Valley on Saturday.
Grandview (16-2-1) will have the chance to defend its title Wednesday night and go for a fourth 5A title in five years when it plays Arapahoe at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“A lot of our stuff is on following the shots,” Prince said. “When you hit it, you just look for the next one because you just expect it to miss anyways. It was just lucky that it came right in front of me and I was able to put it away.”
Ralston Valley (13-4-2) was up to the task against Grandview’s offense. Mustangs sophomore keeper Lilly VanAlsburg finished with seven saves, but Ralston Valley struggled to find its own chances against Grandview’s defense until midway through the second half.
The Mustangs put four shots on goal down the stretch, but Wolves keeper Maddie Livingston turned them all away.
“When you score and you’re up, you get a little bit tight,” Grandview coach Tari Wood said. “We stopped possessing and doing a little bit of the stuff that we were doing so well. They got pretty determined and started running through the ball a little bit more than we did at the beginning.”
Grandview and Arapahoe played to a 2-2 tie back on April 2.
“Looking back now, I don’t mind that it was a tie,” Wood said. “It’s hard to beat a team two times in a row. It’s an even match for us.”