COMMERCE CITY – For 9 seconds, the result of the 4A girls’ soccer championship game hung in the balance — hidden in a cloud of feet, elbows and desperation.
Cheyenne Mountain led 2-1 with 5 minutes remaining when Evergreen sent in a corner kick, setting off chaos.
The ball bounced off the far post and into that sea of humanity in front of the Indians’ goal. There it bounced around and what looked like a rugby scrum gathered around it.
Cheyenne Mountain goalkeeper Ashley Bertsch felt guilty as she tried to find the ball. The corner kick had been set up by what she saw as a miscue, going after a wide shot that didn’t require a save. She couldn’t secure it, but knocked it past the goal line.
“I was just thinking that I had to get the ball because it was my fault they got the corner, so I was just like they cannot score on this,” Bertsch said. “So I was just waiting for the perfect opportunity to jump on the ball because we just couldn’t let them score.”
Bertsch’s coach, Nikki Athey, didn’t understand how her keeper, who had moved to the position just three months earlier, could possibly come up with the ball.
“Not many really, really good goalkeepers could find that ball,” Athey said. “I couldn’t even see the ball.”
Lisa Long couldn’t see the ball either, but she didn’t let it concern her. Long was watching from the sidelines, having just scored the go-ahead goal — her second goal of the day and sixth in the postseason.
Long knew Air Academy had scored the tying goal with even less time on the clock against the Indians in the second round of the tournament. Cheyenne Mountain brushed that aside when Long scored the winner in double-overtime.
“Whatever happened in that situation I knew we would pull through,” Long said.
But it didn’t matter. Somehow in all that congestion, Bertsch came through with the ball. For the next 5 minutes, the Indians played keep-away and preserved the lead that, for those 9 seconds, had hanged by such a fragile thread.
“It was an eternity,” Cougars coach Peter Jeans said. “I was hoping it was going to go in.
“But obviously it did not.”