COMMERCE CITY – Cheyenne Mountain’s title factory rolled another trophy off the assembly line Wednesday evening.
Not this time. This one was built entirely from scratch.
With a 2-1 victory over No. 3 Evergreen at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, these 21-seeded Indians brought the program its sixth championship in 15 years.
But this wasn't a train they kept rolling. This was the result of laying down new tracks.
They did this despite an 0-4 start to the season. They did it behind a goalkeeper who was a defender in mid-March before volunteering to try a new position. They were led by a coach who had won a title for the school, then took 11 years off to be a mom before returning this season. And their two goals on Wednesday came from a leading scorer who is hanging up her cleats, effective immediately, to go be a college student instead of a student-athlete.
Yes, there was a reason 20 teams in 4A were seeded higher than Cheyenne Mountain – even if the history on the front of the jersey made that seem preposterous.
And that made this title all the more special.
“I’ve been watching the old Cheyenne girls since I was in elementary school, and I’ve seen them win state championships,” said Lisa Long, who scored twice for the Indians. “I’ve always wanted to be here, I’ve always wanted to play at Dick’s and walk away holding that trophy, so it’s absolutely insane.”
Long scored the game’s first goal with 29:48 remaining in the first half, as she slithered through about three defenders to work loose and score on a breakaway. That lead held up until Evergreen tied it with 3 minutes left in the half on a free kick from about 35 yards that snuck over goalkeeper Ashley Bertsch.
Long – who scored six of the Indians’ 10 playoff goals – struck again with 12:42 remaining, chasing down a pass from Marissa Dowlin and touching in the game-winning goal.
There were plenty of tense moments besides that, mostly involving Cheyenne Mountain pulling off close escapes from Evergreen chances.
But this whole tournament has been about escaping close calls against higher-seeded teams. The Indians beat No. 12 Mead 2-1. Knocked off rival Air Academy 2-1 in double-overtime on the No. 5 Kadets’ field. They then beat No. 4 Wheat Ridge 3-1, No. 8 Silver Creek 1-0 and took care of the No. 3 Cougars in the finale.
“We always knew we were Cheyenne Mountain,” said coach Nikki Athey, a former Indians player who coached the Indians from 1996-2008 before taking “a little hiatus.”
“We started rough, and we finally found ourselves. So, it took us a little bit, but I mean, it turned out awesome. This is great. It’s so hard to have words for this.”
As for that seed, it should be noted that the Indians’ eight losses came against 5A and 4A playoff teams. In that group were four 5A playoff teams – including three seeded in the top 10 – and a pair of top-seven seeds in 4A. Three of those losses came by one goal, with another two coming by two.
After May 1, the Indians closed the season on a 7-1 tear.
“I told (Athey) that we played a tough schedule, and they were one of the best teams we played,” Evergreen coach Peter Jeans said. “I didn’t fancy seeing them again. They won the tournament. They deserved it.”
For Long, who is headed to the University of Denver and walking away from 16 years of soccer, the finish to all of this was a perfect surprise.
“Nobody expected anything from us, and more important we didn’t expect anything from us,” Long said. “We just came out every game like, ‘OK, guys. Put it all on the line and where the chips fall, that’s where they fall.’
“It’s incredible, honestly. To be able to finish the last soccer game of my life with a state win is absolutely incredible.”