Playoff Picture Comes into Focus as Mountain Lions Win Third Straight
COLORADO SPRINGS - The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's soccer team climbed into playoff relevance with their third straight win, a 3-0 decision over the New Mexico Highlands Cowgirls Friday evening at Mountain Lion Stadium.
With the win, the Mountain Lions improved to 6-5 overall, but more importantly 5-5 against Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference competition. The 15 points (three per win) allowed UCCS to leapfrog Colorado Christian, which has a 4-6-1 conference record for 13 points, and into sixth place. Six teams will advance to the RMAC playoffs.
"It's been our team goal to make the RMAC tournament and we're working as hard as we can to make it; to do it for ourselves and for the school," said defender Lauren Hall. "We're just going to keep going. We have a couple more hard games ahead of us and hopefully we can come away with wins."
The Mountain Lions have a good chance of doing just that if they keep putting the brakes on opposing offenses. It was the third consecutive shutout for freshman goalkeeper Kayla Millar and the UCCS defense. Millar made five saves.
"We've really started to work more on man-marking; staying an arm's length away and not leaving our mark - making sure we follow them throughout the field and not letting them receive the ball or make a turn if they do receive the ball," said Hall. "(We're) really closing hard and shutting down their forwards."
In addition to the stifling defense, the Mountain Lions scored a season-high three goals on Friday. Ashley Collins, Krista Mirabelli and Josi Heer each scored. Jessica Escobedo had two assists, while Julia Saenz and Meghan Royer each added one.
"All of our goals tonight were off crosses," said Mirabelli. "As an offense, we were working off each other which is something we've been working on all season."
The first of those crosses came from Saenz, who split two defenders and launched a retrograde crossing pass to Collins, who was making a run straight toward the center of the goal. Her blast in the 22nd minute was her team-leading third goal of the season.
Mirabelli notched the Mountain Lions' second goal at the 36:09 mark.
"I saw open (field) and then I held my run so I wouldn't be offside," she said. "Jessica Escobedo crossed it and I volleyed it in with my left foot."
Escobedo was also involved with the third goal, which came in the 56th minute. Royer sent a looping pass to the left side of the penalty area, where Escobedo touched it laterally to a charging Heer, who was making a near-post run.
That third goal set in motion a chippiness that had been building for the Cowgirls, whose dark purple jerseys with unreadable black numerals gave them enough anonymity to qualify for the witness protection program. New Mexico Highlands (2-14, 2-10 RMAC) suffered its seventh consecutive shutout. Cowgirl goalkeeper Lauren Waite made seven saves.
Late-game assault and battery aside, UCCS coach Nichole (Rick) Ridenour was pleased with what was a complete effort by her team.
We played well; we played our possession game," said Ridenour. "We controlled the ball and we controlled the pace of the game.
"It's all about whether we do what we're capable of doing. If we do, we succeed."
And the playoff picture comes into focus.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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