Fruita girls soccer team falls in first round of 5A playoffs
LITTLETON — The Fruita Monument High School girls soccer team put itself in great position to pull off the upset.
The Wildcats had eighth-seeded Columbine on the ropes in Tuesday’s first round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
But all it takes is one goal, and that’s exactly what the Rebels got with six minutes remaining as they ended Fruita Monument’s season with a 1-0 victory.
The Wildcats (8-7-1), who finished tops among 5A teams in the Southwestern League and second overall in the league, had an idea of what to expect from the Rebels (13-3), who tied for first in the Jefferson County League.
Their mission was to keep the team’s leading scorer, one of the top goal scorers in the state, in check. That, of course, was easier said than done, because no team had been able to contain the Rebels’ sophomore forward, Tatum Barton, who entered the game with 22 goals.
But that’s what the Wildcats did for 74 minutes.
“She’s got speed, and she’s got foot skills,” said Fruita Monument senior defender Jamie Madson, who assumed the main duties of trying to keep Barton in check, serving as her shadow throughout the game. “(We wanted to) mark her, keep her close.”
“We talked about how to defend her, and it worked,” Wildcats coach Jeff Shuldener said.
The Rebels outshot the Wildcats 15-5 in the first half and 8-6 through the first 34 minutes of the second half.
Much of the credit for the shutout to that point went to Fruita sophomore goaltender Jessica Smith.
Barton finally scored on a bit of a fluke play when a Wildcat defender fell down in front of the goal. Barton made a spin move to her right and hooked a 10-yard shot into the upper-right corner of the goal for the game-winner.
“I was hoping we would get a goal before (the end of) regulation,” Shuldener said, adding fatigue was starting to take a toll on his team.
Despite that, the Wildcats were the aggressors after the goal.
“We didn’t lay down,” Shuldener said, proud of his team’s attack in the final six minutes.
As for the play of Smith, who finished with seven saves despite being injured twice in the second half, “She was terrific,” Shuldener said.
Madson, one of the team captains, took heart after her final high school game.
“We built such a strong team. We’ve definitely changed the Fruita Monument program,” she said.
With just five players graduating, “It’s going to carry over to next year,” she said of playing toe to toe with one of the top teams in the state.
Shuldener smiled as he left the field Tuesday.
“It was a good day,” he said, “except for the final score.”