COMMERCE CITY - Three months ago, Cheyenne Mountain's girls' soccer team didn't have a starting goalie.
So junior Ashley Bertsch, a former defender, volunteered to try out for the position. After the first practice she decided it wasn’t for her, but without another keeper available for preseason scrimmages, Bertsch stepped in.
“She just rolled with it and got better every single game,” Cheyenne Mountain coach Nikki Athey said. “She got more confident and the girls supported her and backed her up.”
Flash forward 14 games, and Bertsch is the starting goalkeeper on the 4A girls’ soccer state championship team as the No. 21 Indians defeated No. 3 Evergreen 2-1 for the program’s sixth championship in 15 years.
“It’s amazing because at the beginning of the season we just wanted to make playoffs,” Bertsch said, “and now we’ve won it. It’s crazy. We just got this momentum and it just didn’t stop.”
Her career in goal was not smooth sailing from the start, however, as the team started 0-4 with opponents outscoring the Indians 9-1. But Bertsch continued to improve, finishing her junior season with a 1.212 goals-against average.
“After the first few games we lost the team was so supportive everybody was helping me, and at that point I couldn’t back out,” Bertsch said. “Everyone helped me to get better and it was just awesome.”
And she capped off the state championship Wednesday with arguably her biggest save of the year.
With five minutes left to play, Cheyenne Mountain held a one-goal lead, but Bertsch let the ball slip through her hands and beyond the goal line to lead to an Evergreen corner.
After a mad scuffle in goal for what coach Athey said felt like hours, Bertsch came up with the ball.
“I just saw legs and arms and bodies,” Bertsch said. “I didn’t know where the ball was, but it popped out right in front of me so I jumped on it.”
“Not many really, really good goalkeepers would have come up with that ball,” Athey said.
Bertsch allowed no more than a goal per game in the postseason, and registered her second shutout of the year against Silver Creek to punch the team’s ticket to the state championship game.
“A lot of her experience has come from games,” said Cheyenne Mountain senior Lisa Long. “We started out really rough, but game after game Ashley has just improved so much and she has become this amazing keeper who got us to where we are today.”