Rowan helps Montrose crack Weld Central's tough D
MONTROSE — Through ball after through ball Wednesday afternoon, the Montrose High School girls soccer team fed Stephanie Rowan.
The striker keyed the offense, creating chances and setting up opportunities for others, until Rowan herself finally broke through.
It was Rowan’s goal — a left-footed tap-in during the 52nd minute of the first-round Class 4A playoff game against 27th-seeded Weld Central — that lifted the No. 7 Indians to a 1-0 win at Montrose High School.
Montrose (13-3) hosts No. 10 Lewis Palmer (10-3-3), a 2-1 winner Wednesday over Golden, in a second-round game Saturday. A game time has not been set.
The Indians had to crack a stout Weld Central (13-2-1) defense. The Rebels were second in Class 4A in fewest goals allowed, surrendering only five goals over 15 games.
Montrose dominated possession throughout the game and pinned Weld Central in its defending third from the 20th minute on, but the Indians put only five shots on goal.
The chances they did create, mostly on long through balls and some runs up the wing, often went wide or were cleared by the Rebels.
“I was getting a lot of through balls from my teammates, but I didn’t have some good touches,” Rowan said. “We had a lot of chances, but we didn’t necessarily capitalize. But that one, the goal, I finally broke through.
“I think at halftime we finally realized that we needed to get passes to our feet and play together more because we were kinda off in the first half. Once we got that going, we started getting a lot more chances, and we knew we had to be more selfish at the top of the 18(-yard box) and take more shots than we did in the first half.”
With the steady west-to-east wind at its back during the second half, Montrose’s long lobs carried toward the goal.
Montrose coach Jamie Gurule said the 4-1-4-1 formation sets up Rowan at the top of the offense. With the through balls sailing, all Rowan had to do was chase them.
“If we had two Stephanies, we’d be really dangerous,” Gurule said. “It’s hard, sometimes, isolating to one striker. But it really gives Stephanie a lot of room to move up top. The way she moves, she can get open.
“She’s a basketball player, and she likes to post up and set herself up for those isolation situations. She’s dangerous, she’s good with give-and-goes, and you’re just trying to get her that open shot.”
Montrose’s height on the back line limited Weld Central’s opportunities. The majority of the Rebels’ plays into the penalty box came from set pieces, but with a significant height advantage, the Indians’ neutralized plays near the goal.
On top of limiting chances, Montrose consistently forced Weld Central off the ball. The result was consistent possession for Montrose, and it kept the Rebels chasing the ball.
Gurule said the defense’s ability to spark offense also impressed him.
“That defensive line, across the board, but specifically Grace Halbach at outside back, did a great job feeding the ball forward,” Gurule said. “With how that defensive line has been playing, just pushing and pushing forward, you know it’s a matter of time before Steph gets it at her feet to finish.”