ARVADA — Evergreen’s girls soccer team is one win away from capturing another Class 4A Jeffco League champion title.
“League title would be huge for us,” Evergreen senior Myla Stewart said after a 2-1 victory against D’Evelyn at the North Area Athletic Complex on Thursday night. “With COVID last year we call it back-to-back. That league title is almost more important than state (qualifying) because we play in one of the hardest conferences in Colorado.”
Evergreen won the 4A Jeffco League title in 2019 on its way to a state runner-up finish in the 4A state tournament two years ago. The COVID pandemic completely wiped out the Spring 2020 season.
The Cougars — ranked No. 1 in the CHSAANow.com 4A poll — had to hang on against a desperate D’Evelyn squad that was coming off back-to-back losses to 5A’s No. 3 Valor and Green Mountain. The No. 5 Jaguars was in a must-win situation to have a chance to qualify for the 16-team state tournament.
“Playing D’Evelyn is always my favorite game of the year,” Evergreen coach Peter Jeans said. “I told the girls before the game I don’t believe in my 15 years either team has won by more than a goal. I love this game. It had a playoff feel to it.”
Stewart got Evergreen (9-0, 8-0 in 4A Jeffco) on the board early with a goal in the 16th minute. The ball came to the senior striker in the middle of D’Evelyn’s goal box and Stewart delivered her 9th goal of the season.
“I saw net and I took it,” Stewart said of her goal in the 16th minute. “When I turned around I had all 17 of my teammates cheering me on. I think this was one of the first games this year we’ve fully played as a team.”
The Cougars dominated possession against D’Evelyn (5-3-1, 5-2-1) for the majority of the first half. Evergreen extended its lead to 2-0 late in the first half with a penalty kick goal by senior Jocelin Zimmerer in the 35th minute.
D’Evelyn did make things interesting in the second half. Senior Lauren Cook hit the post off a direct free kick in the opening minutes. Senior Kylee Ornstein then had a header from point-blank range saved by Evergreen junior goalie Aubrey Huerta seconds later.
“Aubrey came off a big injury earlier this season and has been incredible,” Stewart said. “I couldn’t wish for a better keeper. She comes up with big saves when we need them.”
Stewart nearly made it a 3-0 goal lead in the 49th minute, but her shot rocketed off the cross bar. The posts and cross bar became the Cougars’ friend a couple of times in the second half.
“You have to have breaks, but we have also put ourselves in position to win the game,” Jeans said. “I thought we played well the whole game. To D’Evelyn’s credit they hung in there. They got a key goal at the right time.”
Cook ended the chance for Evergreen’s 8th shutout victory of the year after she gathered in an initial shot that hit the cross bar and put it in the back of the net in the 70th minute.
“Soccer is a game of inches,” D’Evelyn coach Reid Bervik said of the Jaguars nearly battling all the way back from a 2-0 deficit despite suffering a few key injuries that left D’Evelyn short-handed against Evergreen. “I’m proud of the girls. They fought their butts off and played with their hearts.”
Evergreen was masterful controlling the ball in the corners in the final five minutes to run out the clock to clinch a top-2 spot in the 4A Jeffco League and automatic berth into the postseason.
“At the end we had to dig deep to just finish the game against a really good team,” Jeans said.
The Cougars wrap up their season against No. 7 Wheat Ridge (7-1, 6-1) next week on Wednesday, June 9 at Lakewood Memorial Field. That game will decide the conference championship.
“We know we are going to get a huge game from them,” Jeans said of Wheat Ridge. “I’m expecting another battle. Another playoff-like game.”
D’Evelyn concludes its regular season against Wheat Ridge on Monday, June 7, at Lakewood Memorial Field. Unfortunately for the Jaguars it will likely be a season finale too.
“There is a very slim chance. We’d have to have a lot of cards fall into place,” Bervik said of the Jaguars’ postseason chances with the field limited to 16 teams instead of the normal 32 teams. “It’s definitely a bummer because (4A) Jeffco usually has five or six teams make the tournament. It is what it is. COVID has taken a lot.”