When Kirsten Ryan moved to Steamboat Springs from California before her freshman year, she came with the intention of playing in net and on the field.
Saturday, after making 21 saves to help lift Steamboat to a 2-1 first-round playoff win over Longmont, it was clear why Ryan became the Sailors' starting goalie before she played one game of high school soccer.
"She was awesome," Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said. "She was connected with the game and came up with big saves. The only thing to ask is she have more of those performances."
Ryan will have that opportunity. With the win, the Sailors improve to 14-1-1 this season and move on to the next round. Their seed and opponent will be announced today and will be posted on the Colorado High School Activities Association's Web site at www.chsaa.org.
Longmont finishes 8-6-1 after falling to the same Steamboat team it defeated last year, 3-1, on the same field.
Trojans coach Megan Beasley said the Sailors played the same style of game as last year. The difference Saturday was on the Trojans' side of the ball, she said.
"This was a case where we couldn't finish," Beasley said. "We kept peppering them with shots and couldn't get one in."
Trailing 2-1 to open the second half, Longmont wasted little time attacking the net, firing a shot at Ryan within the first minute of play. During the next 40 minutes, Longmont had more than enough opportunities to tie the game -- and possibly win it -- but the players just couldn't capitalize.
Amanda Wing's penalty kick attempt sailed high just five minutes into the second. Fifteen minutes in, Ryan stopped a solid shot from Jovi Valdez. With less than 10 minutes remaining, the Trojans mustered what energy they had left and tried to push one past Ryan. The best attempt came on a redirect off Megan McFarland's leg that drilled the crossbar and bounced all the way back to midfield.
Meanwhile, the Sailors' defense did its best to control the ball, help out Ryan and limit the quality shots Longmont forward Tiernay Tilford got on goal. When the whistle blew, everyone on Steamboat's bench was free to exhale.
"We had a feeling this would be a tough game," Steamboat defender Tara Schneider said. "Against players (like Tilford) you have to play compact and watch for the perfect moments to come up so you don't get beat. You have to read the game."
Steamboat, a team that occasionally starts slow, scored first eight minutes into the first half with a goal from Lindsay Ellis. Kelly Labor took the quick corner kick from Casey Garth and delivered a hooking centering pass that Ellis redirected past Longmont goalie Noelle Arnaud.
The Trojans tied it up 12 minutes later when Tilford got behind the defense and knocked a shot past Ryan, who came out to try to intercept the ball.
The game-winning goal for Steamboat came at the 28-minute mark on another corner kick. Casey Garth took the original
shot before Jessica Dover drilled the rebound into the net. Despite scoring twice off corner kicks, it is an offensive scheme the Sailors rarely practice.
"My philosophy is you don't have to spend a lot of time on it," Bohlmann said. "You need someone that can knock it in and someone that can work through the compactness of the penalty area."
Steamboat is the only team from the Western Slope League to advance. Battle Mountain lost to Evergreen, 1-0, on Saturday and Golden crushed Rifle, 9-1, on Thursday.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org