Grand Valley falls to Kent Denver in 3A soccer playoffs

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE — Now they know.

The Grand Valley High School girls soccer team Saturday got a lesson in what it takes to compete at the top level of Class 3A. Facing Kent Denver in the second round of the 3A state playoffs, the Cardinals, playing in only their second state playoff game, were eliminated by the Sun Devils 6-1.

Grand Valley got its first playoff victory the day before when it defeated Denver School of Science and Technology Stapleton 4-0. The step up in competition Saturday was evident. Kent Denver, perennially one of the top programs in the state, showed how it’s done in the postseason.

Although the score showed the offensive effectiveness of Kent Denver, it was its defense that carried the day. The Sun Devils allowed only five shots on goal.

“Hands down, I’d say that’s the best back line we’ve seen all year,” Cardinals coach Eric Sarno said. “We couldn’t get in left, right (or) center.”

The Cardinals, who had scored 80 goals entering the game, struggled to mount an offensive attack all morning.

“They were persistent,” Sarno said of the Sun Devil defense.

Trailing 2-0 with 14 minutes gone, the Cardinals (13-3-1) looked to get back in it when the team’s leading scorer, Ashlynn Speakman, was on the spot to put in a rebound off a Megan Smith shot.

That was short-lived, however, as the Sun Devils responded four minutes later and added another goal from 20 yards before the half to go ahead 4-1.

Despite the margin, Sarno was proud his team played to the 80-minute mark.

“I thought the girls battled,” he said. “We’ve been pushing (to) never give up.”

The game was an indicator of the level the Cardinals would like to consistently achieve.

Jordann Williams, one of only three seniors on the team, had a special feeling about the team’s potential during preseason workouts in January.

“I knew this was going to be a playoff group,” she said.

The defender will be taking her skills to McPherson (Kansas) College this fall.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s going to be hard moving on.”

Still, with six juniors and three sophomores from the starting lineup returning next season, she knows she’s left the program in good hands.

“(The underclassmen) can say, ‘The seniors made this team, but we can make it even better,’ ” Williams said.

Despite the loss, “(Playoff) experience is the most valuable thing,” Sarno said of the gains his team made from the game. “(We got) playoff minutes. It’s great for us.”

Junior forward Lauren Paskett believes the team learned another lesson.

“If you want to play in the big leagues, you’ve got to fight all the time,” she said.

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