Ably bringing the fight to Pirate Heights, particularly intense during the final 25 minutes of play, the Bayfield Wolverines were unable to advance from out of the Class 3A Girls' Soccer State Tournament's opening Round-of-24 last week with a 3-0 loss in Colorado Springs to St. Mary's.
"Both teams deserved to be in, Bayfield included in that, especially," St. Mary's coach Gregg Braha said. "You know, we've taken that field, down to 24, and you knew it was going to be tighter. And really, the difference between a 5-0 regular-season win and a 3-0 playoff win is you saw it tighten up."
"It could have been a 1-0 game, either direction," said BHS boss Jen Moore. "To be honest, if we played the whole game the way we played the last 25 minutes, I think we had a good shot."
"Shot" meant "likelihood of victory."
Actual tries on May 9 inside the Grace Center on Pirate goalkeeper Becca Dunbaugh were few, far between, and all materialized after intermission, which started with 11th-seeded St. Mary's two goals ahead on their synthetic home turf.
"We wanted to control tempo and pace early," Braha said, "but the big thing was we wanted to score and get a second goal right after, and we got it done."
Taking a feed from senior Marisa Shigio, junior Katie Fowler right-footed an eighth-minute ball past BHS' Lana McKee, and sophomore Katherine Chartier then cleaned up a deflected shot, taken by junior Mary Brummel and initially stopped by McKee, in the 10th.
SMHS' quick-strike thinking then swiftly paid dividends after halftime. Brummel scored in the 46th via a Shigio set-up, and the #22 Wolverines (8-7-1 overall) had no choice but to channel as much energy as possible into their attack.
"We started going at 'em, and when we started going at 'em their defense was making mistake, mistake, mistake, and I was thinking 'We've got to capitalize on this,'" Moore said. "Even if they're fast, if it kills us in the end, whatever; we've still got to try to get a goal!"
"Bayfield, the first 10 minutes of the second half, came out pressing to get the next goal - to make it 2-1 - and got caught," said Braha, "but then had the resolve to really battle the last 20 minutes. Matched the rhythm of the game, and moving Savannah Kaufmann forward was probably the smartest move they made, trying to isolate a defender...that can change a game very quickly!"
It nearly did in the 56th minute, but Dunbaugh held both her nerve and the ball as Kaufmann flew at her on a rush towards the net. She then robbed BHS' Brooke Merchant on a breakaway, probably the visitors' best chance during the match, in the 62nd to maintain a clean sheet. Dunbaugh finished with two saves, while McKee unofficially totaled 18 as the Pirates fired 21 shots on frame and earned nine corners to Bayfield's zero.
"We just couldn't get a goal," Moore said. "I wish we would have started off the way we ended, but it is what it is. We had a great season, came a long way after losing several games, and it's why we play these guys during the season: So we're prepared for 'em, know how to play. We'll see 'em next year!"
AFTERMATH: St. Mary's advanced to play at 6-seed Manitou Springs, which received one of the tournament's first-round 'byes,' three days later, a unique occurrence not lost on Braha.
"This will be my 18th time playing them in 16 years, and the second playoff game," he said. "We have to turn around and play at Manitou; we'd played them (during the regular season) here. And when we looked at the bracket it was just hilarious because Bayfield, had they won, has to come all the way back and play at Manitou - they did that this season!"
BHS had lost 5-0 at MSHS on March 16, then lost to SMHS the next day at the Grace Center.
The Pirates were unable to advance into the State quarterfinals, however, and finished 12-4-1 overall this spring after a 2-0 loss to Ben Mack's Mustangs (14-2-0).