Craig In an important game with postseason implications, the Moffat County High School girls soccer team came up with the result it needed.
The Bulldogs got a second-half goal from Jazmine Swindler to tie Aspen at Woodbury Sports Complex on Monday and secure an all-important tiebreaker over the Skiers. Moffat County is now 7-5-1 this season, while Aspen is 5-4-3.
Moffat County had just beaten the Skiers 1-0 in Aspen on Saturday, and the Lady Bulldogs knew they would be in for another tight game. This time, the Skiers struck first, getting a goal early in the game after a couple failed clearances led to an easy shot on goal.
But the Bulldogs maintained their composure even as Aspen goalkeeper Sally McGuren was saving everything the Bulldogs could throw at her.
“It was only one goal,” Bailey Hellander said. “We knew that we could score that and get back into the game, we just had to keep pushing.”
Midway through the second half, Swindler finally had a breakthrough. A ball was played over everyone’s head and McGuren reached it first, but her clearance kick was not clean. It came back down still in a danger zone for Aspen, where the ball was eventually tapped over to Swindler, who poked it over the retreating goalie’s head to tie the game at 1.
“This team has shown great courage this whole season,” head coach Harry Tripp said. “They keep battling back, and you saw that again (Monday).”
The final 20 minutes of the game featured intense, back-and-forth action, with both teams just missing on good chances. With just more than three minutes remaining, Allie Ehlers ripped a shot off the crossbar that would have given Moffat County the lead.
A minute later, Bulldogs goalie Skylar Tripp made a diving save, then lost the ball, which slowly rolled toward the goal before she was able to corral it and complete the save. Hellander said she “was in sheer panic” as she saw the ball inch toward the goal.
But neither team was able to get a goal in regulation or in the two overtime halves, and the game ended in a tie. That was all Moffat County needed, because the Bulldogs will own a tiebreaker over the Skiers if they have the same league record at the end of the year.
Since falling 3-2 to Roaring Fork in Craig on April 23, the Bulldogs have needed to produce good results in every game to make the postseason. With Monday’s tie, they completed that goal.
“I think we knew what we wanted,” Hellander said. “We really weren’t sure if we could beat Aspen when we went and played them the first time, but we did. It’s really exciting making playoffs, especially in my senior year.”
Technically, the Skiers could still finish the Western Slope League ahead of the Bulldogs, but it will be a tall order. Aspen takes on Basalt, Roaring Fork and Grand Valley to close its season, teams it has gone 0-1-2 against this year.
Moffat County will finish its season with two non-league games against Class 5A Fruita Monument on Wednesday and Grand Junction Central on Friday.
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org