The Moffat County High School girls soccer team was feeling the nerves earlier in the week about their first playoff game.
They didn’t show it Friday in Greeley.
The Bulldogs battled for an extra 20 minutes against Manitou Springs at University of Northern Colorado’s Jackson Field, but they ultimately fell 2-1 in double overtime in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
Moffat County fell behind 1-0 in the first half. Allie Ehlers equalized the game in the second half off a free kick. The two teams battled back and forth without a goal for the rest of regulation and one 15-minute overtime before Manitou recorded the game-winner about five minutes into the second OT.
It was a brutal way for Moffat County’s season to end but also a reminder of how far the team has come this season.
“Man, they had some heart today,” head coach Harry Tripp said. “We gave up the first goal and at halftime we talked about passing the ball better, not just clearing it or kicking it out of bounds. We started to do that and played with them in the second half.”
The Bulldogs went into the game hoping to slow down the Mustangs’ potent offensive attack, which averaged more than five goals per game in the regular season. They succeeded with a masterful performance from their defenders, Tripp said.
“Bailey (Hellander), Rose (Howe), Bretta (Buchanan) and Delaney (Baker), they stepped it up tremendously on defense,” he said. “They were rock solid.”
Ehlers’ goal came after a foul on Manitou just outside the 18-yard box. Ehlers, the Bulldogs’ free-kick specialist all season, ripped a shot on goal, right through the goalkeeper’s arms and into the net to tie the game.
“She wanted that goal,” Tripp said. “That shot was a rocket.”
Frantic soccer followed, with both teams pushing for goals then working desperately to get back and defend counterattacks, Tripp said. Eventually the Mustangs broke through with less than 10 minutes left in double overtime.
Moffat County finished its season 8-7-1. While it was a difficult pill to swallow for the Bulldogs’ seven seniors, the team was able to step back and celebrate the record-breaking season it had.
“I told them when they came up (after the game), gave everyone a hug, but I told them I was proud of all of them,” Tripp said. “It was tough for the seniors, but they played great today. They played like they wanted it.”
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org