Grand Valley wins first-ever soccer playoff game
First-ever playoff game for girls soccer program results in 4-0 victory
CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE — They got past the first step.
The Grand Valley High School girls soccer team had an idea of its goals entering Friday’s first round of the Class 3A state playoffs. Then again, it was the program’s first-ever appearance in the postseason, so there was some concern about the uncharted territory.
Scoring twice in the first 15 minutes, the Cardinals got the answers they needed as they breezed past Denver School of Science & Technology Stapleton 4-0 to advance to today’s second round.
“First-ever (playoff victory),” Grand Valley coach Eric Sarno said, attempting to catch his breath as he soaked in the victory.
It wasn’t just the victory that excited him, it was the potential challenges his team faces in the coming playoff rounds. That sentiment was echoed by Cardinals junior forward Ashlynn Speakman.
“Our confidence is growing,” said Speakman, who scored the Cardinals’ first two goals to add to her team-leading total of 27. “Now we know we can get to that round of 16.”
Grand Valley entered the tournament as the 11th seed in the 32-team playoffs, while Denver Science was 22nd. Unfamiliar with the Knights’ conference and forging into new ground in the playoffs, the Cardinals were a bit unsure of what to expect. They had confidence, however.
“Coming into the game, we knew what we were facing,” Speakman said. “All we had to do was play our game.”
Immediately after spring break, the Cardinals (13-2-1) got a gauge on how there season could go. Staring at a stretch against 3A Western Slope League opponents Coal Ridge, Roaring Fork and Aspen as well as a nonleague game against Central, the Cardinals lost only to Coal Ridge, traditionally among the top teams in the state of late and seeded third in this year’s 3A playoffs.
They followed up the loss to the Titans with a six-game win streak.
“Once we started winning games we realized we could go far,” Speakman said.
Sarno had such visions before the season began.
“We graduated just two players (from last season’s team),” he said.
More importantly, they defeated a couple of teams this year that in the past had posed problems.
Grand Valley took control early against Denver Science and Tech, scoring less than five minutes in when Speakman intercepted an attempted clearing pass, dribbled to within 15 yards and scored on a low kick.
Ten minutes later, she did the same thing, stepping in front of a Knight pass and converting.
The Cardinals have scored nearly five goals per game this season, but their defense has been equally impressive, giving up about a goal per game.
“We score bucket loads, but our defense doesn’t get the credit,” Sarno said.
Actually, they got some help from the Knights, who scored two own-goals for the final margin.
The Cardinals allowed just five shots on goal.
Now comes a bigger challenge. Grand Valley advances to face sixth-seeded Kent Denver on the Sun Devils’ field at 10 a.m. today. Kent Denver is a seasoned playoff program.
“We’re excited for the challenge,” Sarno said. “This is so valuable, these playoff minutes.”
There’s at least 80 of them left for the Cardinals.