Longmont Coming off a thrilling home playoff win on Wednesday, the 10th-seeded Sailors girls soccer team seemed poised to match up well against the seventh-seeded Silver Creek Raptors.
Steamboat Springs and Silver Creek each had two losses on the season, both to high-ranked Broomfield.
Despite the similarities, Silver Creek shut out Steamboat, 3-0, eliminating the Sailors from class 4A state playoff contention by exposing the difference between the two squads.
"In terms of the speed of play, they're in a different solar system," coach Rob Bohlmann said.
In the first half of Saturday's second-round game, the Raptors contested every ball with speed and urgency, applying offensive pressure early and often.
In the sixth minute of the game, Silver Creek sophomore Erin Gunther converted a quick indirect kick from Kate Russell before the Sailor defense had time to mark up.
Seven minutes later, Gunther struck again from the left side, nailing a goal in the top corner over Steamboat senior goalkeeper Kirsten Ryan.
"You have to give them credit. I definitely have not seen shots like that all season -- right on the side net, that's perfect," Ryan said.
Silver Creek's disciplined shot selection continued when Russell set up Danielle Figliola for a shot she buried in the back corner, giving the Raptors a 3-0 lead heading into the half.
"We were a little concerned going into the second half and talked about how we knew it would be do-or-die for those seniors and knew that they would play tough," Silver Creek coach Sarah Friend said.
Looking at their final half of soccer together, Steamboat's crew of eight seniors rallied to step up to Silver Creek's aggressive play. Led by Ryan and sweeper Jessy Dover, the defense kept the Raptors scoreless in the second half by blocking point-blank shots and using physical play to thwart offensive drives.
"It's exciting to see that when things weren't going great, we could battle and keep it respectable. ... The girls gave everything they had, our back three (senior Jessy Dover and sophomores Miranda Schrock and Carly Earp) played absolutely courageous, and Dover had a career-highlight game. She and Kirsten played phenomenal," Bohlmann said.
Despite the tough defense and a switch to a three-fullback set to initiate offense from midfield, the Sailors failed to generate shots on goal.
"I think we were caught a little off-guard. We weren't completely on today, just not on the same page. There was no linking together out of the backfield to get the offense going," Dover said.
As Silver Creek looked forward to a quarterfinal match next Thursday, Steamboat could only look back on a successful season.
"We're all so close and real with one another -- this is the funnest season we've had. It doesn't show on paper, but it still felt good," Ryan said.
Coaching the savvy seniors for their final performance, Bohlmann also felt positive about the girls' impact -- one that will last beyond a tough loss that ended the season for the Western Slope League champions.
"This group of girls has such passion and commitment for the game. They left a stamp of integrity and a legacy, not only for younger girls and the soccer program as a whole, but also for any sport with kids committed to hard work -- work to be the best they can be," Bohlmann said.