Gearhart scores 4 goals, Windsor beats Northridge in first round of 4A girls soccer playoffs
May 10, 2017
WINDSOR — The emotions washed over Northridge's girls soccer team like the deluge the skies dumped on the closing minutes of the Grizzlies' 5-0 loss to Windsor on Wednesday in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs — sadness, disappointment, pride.
Four years ago, Northridge was a one-win team with a new coach and freshmen in nearly all of its key roles. Together they built the first playoff team in program history. Wednesday night at H.J. Dudley Field, though, the Grizzlies ran into a puzzle that very few teams have solved.
"I'd still take my team over any team in the state," Northridge (10-6) coach Tom Beck said.
Windsor (15-1) has been to two straight final fours; it knows what it's chasing and was seemingly untroubled by the newcomers. Abby Gearhart scored four goals, and the Wizards' defense played like the best back line in the state, which it has been for much of the season.
Windsor allowed just five goals all year. Wednesday was its 12th shutout in 16 tries. Its defense has been so dominant, starting keeper Michaela Moran has faced only 50 shots on goal.
The Wizards' defense was the key to everything they did Wednesday. Their defenders moved on a string whenever Northridge moved the ball side-to-side. They swarmed to the ball, relentless in their tackling. They cleared nearly everything that came their way.
On the rare occasions the Grizzlies had open runners, Windsor shut down the passing lanes before any danger materialized. Perhaps Northridge's best chance came in the fifth minute, when it had a two-on-one after a counter, but Addie Randel's cross missed the open Alana Vasquez and rolled out of bounds.
"If you want to get far in the playoffs, you have to have defense," Windsor coach Mario Garcia said. "We have some very offensive players, so we know they're going to do what they do and we can really focus in on the way we defend."
Speaking of which, Gearhart simply did what she does. She scored 27 goals in the regular season, third in 4A, and was in top form Wednesday. Her first came 20 minutes in after a run up the middle split the Northridge defense and left her wide open.
Her second was more of a backbreaker. Windsor's Chaynee Kingsbury chased down a ball deep in Grizzlies' territory, using her sprinter's speed to beat Northridge's Jodi Shea to it. Shea pushed her down, giving the Wizards a free kick just outside the penalty box.
Windsor didn't score on that, but quickly parlayed it into a corner kick that Gearhart headed home to put the Wizards up 2-0 26 minutes in. She got her hat trick in the 55th minute on another header, this one off of a free kick, and scored her fourth in the 69th when she deked two Grizzlies and fired a laser over the diving Northridge keeper Nohelia Peña.
After Gearhart's last goal, the rain that had intermittently dampened the game came back with a vengeance as time ran out on the Grizzlies' season.
Beck tearfully hugged his daughter, Kyla, who was one of those freshmen who four years ago signed on with him to create a respectable program from virtually nothing.
They did that, and after the pain from their journey's end has subsided they'll be able to look with pride at what they accomplished.
Windsor has at least one more game before it must face the gamut of season-ending emotions. The Wizards have been around the block enough at this point to know that, in the playoffs, there's only one thing that counts.
Best Individual Performance
Gearhart was spectacular, constantly pushing the attack into Northridge's zone and keeping pressure on the Grizzlies' defense. The threat of her scoring was nearly as valuable as the goals themselves.
When Shea pushed Kingsbury to set up the free kick that eventually led to Windsor's second goal. Coming back from even a one-goal deficit against Windsor's defense is nearly impossible. 2-0, on a goal the Grizzlies essentially gave away, was too much.
Windsor will host Cheyenne Mountain (5-2 4A Pikes Peak League, 9-6 overall) on Saturday in the second round, with the winner playing either Lewis-Palmer or Littleton in the quarterfinals. The Wizards beat Cheyenne Mountain in the quarterfinals last season.
NRHS 0 0 — 0
WHS 2 3 — 5
Scoring — WHS, Abby Gearhart (Meg Zimmerman) 20th minute; WHS, Gearhart (Alyssa Lobato) 26th minute; WHS, Gearhart (Julia Broghammer) 55th minute; WHS, Zimmerman (Chaynee Kingsbury) 66th minute; WHS, Gearhart 69th minute.
Shots — NRHS 6, WHS 23
Saves — NRHS (Nohelia Peña) 18, WHS (Michaela Moran) 6.
Corner Kicks — NRHS 2, WHS 9.