No. 2 Evergreen topples Northfield in opening round of 4A girls soccer state tourney

Evergreen senior Jocelin Zimmerer (7) gets ready to fire a shot that led to the Cougars' opening goal in the 18th minute Wednesday night at Evergreen High School. The Cougars defeated Northfield 2-0 to advance to the Class 4A state quarterfinals. The Cougars will host Steamboat Springs on Saturday back at Evergreen High School. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

EVERGREEN — Two first-half goals is all Evergreen needed offensively Wednesday night to advance to the Class 4A girls soccer state quarterfinals.

The No. 2-seeded Cougars (11-0 record) got goals from senior Jocelin Zimmerer (18th minute) and junior Catherine Rapp (27th minute) on the way to a 2-0 shutout victory against No. 15 Northfield.

Evergreen senior Myla Stewart (21) assisted on the second Cougar goal Wednesday before finishing up playing goalie for the second part of the second half against Northfield. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“My teammate (Lily Maus) played me a great ball in the middle,” Zimmerer said. “I just made a touch forward and took the shot.”

Zimmerer tucked her shot just under the crossbar to give the Cougars the early lead. Evergreen extended the lead to 2-0 less than 10 minutes later with a brilliant connection from senior Myla Stewart to one of the Cougars’ Rapp triplets — Catherine.

Stewart lofted a centering pass from the right wing to Catherine Rapp, who headed the ball past Northfield senior goalie Veda Miles.

“I actually watched the Italy game during Euro 2020 today. The guys play like that,” Stewart said of sending the aerial pass to Catherine Rapp. “I know the (triplets) love header crosses. We are taught to play it on the ground, but this one had to go in the air. It was incredible.”

Evergreen controlled the majority of play holding onto a 2-0 lead before halftime, but couldn’t get a third goal.

Unfortunately for the Cougars the most noticeable news of the scoreless second half was Evergreen junior goalie Aubrey Huerta receiving a red card for handling a ball outside the goal box in the 56th minute.

“It’s a mandatory red card,” Evergreen coach Peter Jeans said of Huerta grabbing the ball outside the goal box. “It is what it is. The player learns a lesson on how to handle that a little differently, but the good news is we made adjustments and we were still carry the game.”

Jeans actually turned to Evergreen’s leading scorer — Stewart — to finish the final 24 minutes in goal for the Cougars. It wasn’t a total surprise to Stewart, who said that she had practiced in goal earlier this year when Huerta was injured.

Evergreen junior Elizabeth Rapp (11) fends off Northfield junior Bailey Williams (13) and sophomore Isabel Bauer (8) during the first half Wednesday night at Evergreen High School. The Cougars took a 2-0 victory in the first-round Class 4A state playoff game. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“I was actually running over the to the referee to have her explain the call,” Stewart said after Huerta’s red card. “Peter (Jeans) looked at me and told me to put the gloves on. I’ll do whatever it takes to get the team where we need to be.”

Stewart faced one legit scoring chance for Northfield, but the Nighthawks put a direct free kick over the net following the red card.

“Everyone knew their first job was the clear the ball,” Zimmerer said of the team’s mindset after the red card. “We did that the entire time and they didn’t get any chances on goal.”

Evergreen continued to put pressure on Miles despite Stewart not able to lead the offensive charge up top for the Cougars. The Nighthawks (8-3) were able to keep the Cougars from scoring in the second half mainly due to a handful of great saves to Miles.

“Hats off to (Northfield),” Jeans said. “They really made us have to play a full 80-minute game and I felt like our girls did that.”

The dilemma Evergreen has now is playing its state quarterfinal match Saturday against No. 10 Steamboat Springs without Huerta in net. A one-game suspension comes with the red card.

“It’s a huge challenge,” Jeans said of playing without Huerta. “We’ll have our work cutout for us. We are going to have to figure out a game-plan and shift some players around.”

Stewart believes there is a good chance she will be back in net against Steamboat Springs, who defeated No. 7 Durango 2-1 on Wednesday night, but the senior captain said all options will be poured over.

“I’m confident we can keep the ball away from our defensive half,” Zimmerer said of the Cougars, who have given up just four goals in 11 games this season. “We’ll be fine. Hopefully we’ll have Aubrey back for the semis.”

Evergreen junior Rami Rapp (10) is tripped up by Northfield sophomore Isabel Bauer, right, during the first-round playoff game Wednesday night at Evergreen High School. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)