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Evergreen girls soccer crashes against Air Academy

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EVERGREEN — There was a storm brewing at Evergreen High School Tuesday night.

Evergreen dominated the first half against Air Academy in the Class 4A girls soccer quarterfinals, but only held a 1-0 lead at halftime.

“We panicked a little bit at halftime because it was only 1-0,” admitted Evergreen sophomore Nadia Luenig. “We knew we could attack this team (Air Academy) and put it under pressure. When we scored that second goal, the momentum changed and we went full throttle.”

The 14th seeded Cougars were tenacious in the first 14 minutes of the second half, scoring four goals on their way to an impressive 6-0 victory. The win over the No. 27 seed Kadets advanced Evergreen (12-5-1 record) to the semifinals scheduled for Thursday, May 16 at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

“I thought we were the better team. We took it to (Air Academy) the whole game,” Evergreen coach Peter Jeans said. “During those first fifteen minutes of the second half we were clinical. Really good finishes, and once you start taking a team down you obviously have to bury them. Teams can get back into the game and you can lose the game.”

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

Evergreen senior Mary Cox gave the Cougars a 1-0 halftime lead by tapping the ball past Air Academy goalkeeper Aliya Vidro in the 38th minute. Luenig took over early in the second half with back-to-back goals in the 42nd and 49th minutes, making the lead 3-0.

Senior Mallory Elliington and sophomore Gianna Weiner extended the lead to 5-0 after scoring a minute apart in the 53rd and 54th minutes.

With the commanding lead midway through the second half, Jeans was able to empty his bench and things continued to click for the Cougars.

“I played against the whole team and my second group came in and played great,” Jeans said. “They scored a goal. They were ready to play and played great.”

Sophomore Cameron Wedding scored the final Evergreen goal in the 71st minute.

Postseason victory was a snap after the Cougars won by one goal over No. 19 Erie and No. 3 Windsor to start the playoffs. Air Academy (7-6-3) was a Cinderella team that knocked off No. 6 The Classical Academy and No. 22 Ponderosa on the road last week.

“We just had to keep our heads down and treat them (Air Academy) like a high seed like Windsor or Erie,” Luenig said of taking on the lowest seed remaining in the quarterfinals.

Evergreen now qualifies as an underdog. The Cougars face No. 2 Northfield on Thursday. The other semi-final features No. 12 Lutheran and No. 9 Denver North.

“I feel like we’ve had a pretty tough stretch of games, but we’ve had a tough stretch of games in the regular season as well,” said Jeans of his Cougars, who have an 8-0-1 record in their last nine games had. “We are ready. I feel like we are ready.”

The Cougars were the only 4A Jeffco team to advance to the semifinals. D’Evelyn, Golden and Green Mountain all suffered one-goal losses in their quarterfinal matches Tuesday night in what could have been the Jeffco semifinals.

“I think it’s good that we might be the only (4A) Jeffco team still standing,” Luenig said. “It will boost our confidence. I also like playing in new teams. Playing against the same teams from our league can get boring.”

This will be the Cougars’ second trip to the semifinals in four years. Evergreen advanced to the 4A title game in 2021, but lost to Holy Family. The Cougars lost in the quarterfinals to Northfield in 2022 and Dakota Ridge in 2023.

Interestingly, Northfield and Dakota Ridge both won the state championship after defeating Evergreen.

“This time we say, ‘Let’s see what we have.’ We are in the semi-finals and have nothing to lose at this point,” said Luenig.