Palisade wins game, loses Maestas to knee injury
Cruz Maestas is a difference-maker on the soccer field.
Against Steamboat Springs on Saturday, the speedy senior scored the only goal in Palisade’s 1-0 win over the Sailors in a Western Slope League game at Walker Field.
A short time later, a vicious collision may have ended her season and high school career.
Maestas remained on the field for more than three minutes, writhing in pain, before being carried off with a possible ligament tear in her right knee.
The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead into the half, and Palisade coach Raina Sorensen knew she had to talk about the injury with her players.
“I prefer an open and honest approach, and I told them the trainer said that it’s a potential ACL tear, and she worked hard and she sacrificed her body, and now we’re going to do the same for her,” she said.
Throughout the first half and Palisade’s four wins this season, Maestas’ speed and athleticism has been the spark behind the Bulldogs’ offensive pressure, including being the lone goal scorer in the Bulldogs two 1-0 wins.
Her goal at the 22-minute mark was a combination of effort, hustle and ability.
After sprinting to get to a free ball, Maestas, Steamboat goalkeeper Ocoee Wilson and the ball all intersected at the top of the box. Maestas drilled a shot into the midsection of the diving keeper, and when the ball popped loose, Maestas pounced and kicked the ball into the vacated net.
Eight minutes later, she left the game with the knee injury.
The Bulldogs’ rallied for their fallen leader and played a spirited game. Immediately after the injury, Brier Youngfleish and Allyson Kissel fired shots on goal.
Sorensen said the injury didn’t affect Palisade’s second-half strategy much.
“Emma Mueller, who’s normally a midfielder, moved to forward and played hard and did everything we asked her to do,” she said. “The girls were able to play on for Cruz, and they kind of won that game for her.”
Besides Maestas’ determined effort to score the goal, the play of the game was turned in on the defensive end by the Bulldogs’ Audrey Rose Kachin at the 17-minute mark.
Palisade keeper Katie Dunn scrambled out to the edge of the box, but a Steamboat player got to the ball first and tapped it by Dunn. As the ball rolled toward the net, Kachin broke for the goal, getting there just in time to left-foot the ball out of danger.
“It was like a foot away (from going into the net), so it was close,” she said with a smile. “(Dunn) pressured the player, so she couldn’t get a solid shot, and I just didn’t give up.”
Palisade (4-0, 4-0 WSL) had a couple of scares from Steamboat (2-2, 2-2 WSL) in the second half, but Dunn made back-to-back saves in the 53rd minute.
With less than three minutes remaining, India Hilty, Nicole Harkreader and Aubrey Raymond-Stafford all had shots on goal for Palisade.
Kachin said the team really came together to play for Maestas.
“We just wanted to play for Cruz and play hard, and Cruz being Cruz, that’s what she would have wanted us to do,” she said.
Sorensen said if the injury is as dire as feared, replacing Maestas won’t be easy.
“We’re going to have to transition someone else into that forward position, and fingers crossed, maybe Cruz’s injury isn’t as serious as they think it might be,” she said.