Tigers get final playoff spot in 5A state soccer tournament
The Grand Junction High School boys soccer team was relieved when it received word Sunday that it had qualified for the Class 5A state playoffs.
There was some bad news that went along with it.
The Tigers received the 32nd and final playoff berth.
That pairs Grand Junction (8-6-0) against the bracket’s No. 1 seed, Rangeview, in Tuesday’s first round.
Times and sites for Tuesday’s first-round games will be determined today.
Durango was the Southwestern League’s top 5A qualifier. The Demons got the 24th seed and travel to No. 9 Liberty on Tuesday.
Montrose, by virtue of winning the SWL title, earned the 15th seed in the 4A state playoffs.
Things just weren’t clicking for the Indians at the beginning of the season.
After reaching the round of 16 in the Class 4A state playoffs the previous two years, the Indians began this season by losing four of their first five games — including a 4-0 loss to Grand Junction in their Southwestern League opener.
“We were missing a couple of guys (and) we had some personnel changes that we were trying to work through,” Montrose coach Jim Lewis said.
“We had a lot of different people in (positions),” senior forward Steven Tobler said.
Tobler said the answer was actually quite simple.
“We starting moving the ball, playing as a team,” he said.
That loss to Grand Junction was a watershed point for the Indians.
“It was a huge wake-up call,” Lewis said.
Since that point, Montrose has gone 9-0-1 as it enters Wednesday’s opening round of the state 4A playoffs.
“I’m real happy with their progression,” Lewis said.
Having been a perennial visitor to the state playoffs, “The players know what it takes,” said Tobler, who leads the team with 15 goals this season. “It’s a lot more intense in the playoffs.”
Lewis is counting on the defense to step up the plate during the playoffs. Montrose got a good start Thursday, holding Central to four shots on goal in the teams’ season finale.
Montrose is home in Wednesday’s first round to take on 18th seed Cañon City.
Western Slope League champion Eagle Valley received the eighth seed. The Devils are home on Wednesday to face No. 25 Evergreen.
Fourteenth seed Glenwood Springs plays host to No. 19 Alameda and No. 16 Battle Mountain is home against No. 17 Longmont.
Steamboat Springs will be the only 4A Western Slope qualifier to hit the road on Wednesday; the Sailors visit No. 10 Wheat Ridge.
Six Western Slope teams qualified for the 3A state playoffs.
Hotchkiss earned the No. 8 seed. The Bulldogs are home on Wednesday to play No. 25 Middle Park.
No. 12 Basalt also gets a first-round home berth. The Longhorns take on No. 21 Crested Butte.
No. 16 Ridgway and No. 17 Aspen face off in the first round in Ridgway on Wednesday.
Roaring Fork is the 31st seed. The Rams travel to Denver Christian.