COMMERCE CITY — Brad Homan struggled to find the words Tuesday night to sum up the performance the Denver Christian coach had just witnessed from his junior goalkeeper.
Through 110 minutes, Thunder junior Eden Reece was as close to brilliant as one can get at the position. Dawson School put immense pressure on the Thunder defense in the Class 2A state championship game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Reece turned away five shots in the second overtime alone, then snared two of the four balls that came here way in the shootout.
The final save of the night sent her Denver Christian teammates into a frenzy, celebrating the program’s fifth championship – and second in two years – after a 4-2 shootout victory over the Mustangs.
“That is one of the best games I’ve seen a goalie play in a state final in a long time,” Homan said of Reece. “She was phenomenal. She was lights out.”
Reece finished with 13 saves through regulation and two overtimes. Dawson (11-4) controlled the tempo for much of the night, and peppered the Thunder defense repeatedly in overtime. She made a diving snare in the first overtime, and among her stops in the second OT included a leap to tip the ball over the crossbar on a laser from Dawson’s Degen Miller.
“I had to stay really focused. It was hard,” Reece said. “There was no way I could stop to reset. I just had to keep going and going the whole time. It paid off because my defense was great and my midfield was great.”
Denver Christian (16-2) came into the game down two starters. The Thunder managed only five shots on goal in the game.
“I challenged the girls, that on a big stage, you need a big heart,” Homan said. “My defenders had hearts of lions tonight.”
In the shootout, Reece got the ball rolling for the Thunder with the first penalty-kick conversion. Each team knocked home the first two chances, but Denver Christian’s Kara Amidon and Kaya Schaap made it 4-for-4 for the Thunder around two stops from Reece.
“I had so much confidence going into it,” Reece said. “It’s not a stressful situation for me. I can be there, and be like ‘I’ve got this. I know what I have to do.’”
Homan gave credit to the play of his line in front of Reece as well, from the keeper’s twin sister, Holland, to that of Sophie Bull, Anna Kaemingk and Kaitlyn Fitzgerald.
Holland Reece had one of the biggest plays in the first half. With the net open, the defender stopped a shot from Miller that deflected out of bounds.
On the ensuing corner kick, Holland Reece again made a stop to keep the game scoreless.
“They played amazing,” Eden Reece said of the defense. “Especially to have Holland, as my twin, saving my butt.”
Dawson was playing in its fifth consecutive 2A championship game. The Mustangs fell to Denver Christian in 2017 before winning its first title a year ago.
Tuesday night’s match was the rubber match between the two teams. Miller and Kaitlyn Day made life stressful for the Denver Christian defense all night – Miller especially, even after missing part of the second half with an injury.
“I’m proud of the whole team for the way they battled through challenges,” Homan said. “It’s so fun to play against Dawson. We have the utmost respect for that team; I have so much respect for Dave (Criswell) as a coach.”