Pontine hat trick helps drub Del Norte
You wouldn’t have realized it then, but Ignacio Girls’ Soccer actually did Crested Butte a solid Saturday, June 5.
Revisiting the teams’ May 25 meeting up in Gunnison County meant that fourth-ranked [CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll, 6/1] CBCS, denied outright the 2A Southwestern title by a 4-2 home loss to league-leading, No. 2 Telluride the previous evening, actually ended up the circuit’s sole side to actually play all ten of its scheduled league matches during a SWL-only 2021.
But even with kickoff at IHS Field pushed back from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in order to accommodate the guests’ rest/travel itinerary, the Lady Titans offered little charity on the pitch in dealing the Lady Bobcats a season-ending 9-0 defeat.
Too long removed from the high of hammering Del Norte 7-1 on the synthetic surface four days earlier, and understandably bummed over not traveling on the 4th out to Center – which had burgled a 4-3 win in Ignacio back on May 15, but later elected to end their season early, foregoing no fewer than three matches – for a second showdown, the Lady ’Cats surrendered five goals in the first half and four in the second.
Denied this spring only the visit to CHS but credited with a forfeit win, Ignacio ultimately finished 2-8 overall/SWL and snatched fifth place in league away from the nemesis Lady Vikings (1-9, 1-9).
“I’m just so proud that we, one, fielded a team and, two, that we were going to keep that team through a full season,” said head coach Alisha Gullion. “A lot of teams lost their seniors as soon as they graduated; our girls never gave up.”
“No subs, and some games we’ve even been down players, but we’ve managed to get back up and keep going, keep running,” said Amanda Henderson, one of three graduated seniors playing their final match. “I’m proud of our team for just that!”
Earning an at-large berth into the Class 2A State Tournament, Crested Butte improved to 8-2, 8-2 and, seeded fourth, drew a June 19 ‘home’ match on Gunnison-based Western Colorado University’s campus versus 5-seed Buena Vista (7-2 overall). THS (10-0, 10-0 SWL), meanwhile, received the No. 1 seed and will host 8-seed Edwards Vail Christian (5-2) the same day; the survivors of each clash will then meet June 23 in one semifinal, with the grand finale set for 9 a.m. Sat., June 26, at Colorado Switchbacks Weidner Field in Colorado Springs.
VICTORY IS OURS
Having lost 8-0 and 7-0 to Telluride less than 24 hours earlier, with the doubleheader played in 20-minute halves rather than regulation 40s, a sense that the Lady ’Cats held something in reserve was more or less confirmed.
“We wanted to play our hardest, but we were definitely saving it for today,” admitted graduated senior Caitlyn Chapman, one of Gullion’s first two (Henderson the other) four-year players since becoming the boss. “We knew we had more of a chance.”
And after taking an early Darlyn Lechuga-Mendoza throw-in from near midfield, Chapman dribbled nearly 40 yards unchallenged along the near sideline – past visiting Del Norte’s bench – before angling in to go 1-v-1 with goalie Symphony Dunbar … and leaving her no chance in netting a fifth-minute, five-hole goal.
Lechuga-Mendoza would convert an Alexis Ortiz feed into a ninth-minute score, and Chapman would boot an intercepted Dunbar goal kick immediately back past the Lady Tigers’ keeper for a 3-0 advantage after just 13 minutes.
One of IHS’ building blocks for the future, Lechuga-Mendoza evaded three DNHS defenders to strike again in the 18th, and Alexis Pontine shot a Henderson assist past Dunbar in the 20th, giving Ignacio a 5-0 halftime lead in the time-condensed contest.
Still to face THS that same afternoon in another 20/20 match, Del Norte avoided being blanked when junior Hannah Trujillo followed up sophomore Kelci Madrid’s 29th-minute free kick and beat Ignacio senior backstop Emily Cundiff. But the enthusiasm was quickly curbed, and DNHS’ hopes all but kicked to the curb when Pontine cashed a Chapman assist in the 30th.
“It felt nice with a good offense,” said Chapman. “We had a lot more people running up this year and … felt a lot stronger.”
“It was all of the things we’ve been talking about, talking about, and just seeing those things clicking on the field … . I mean, they were communicating, they were passing – they played like … an experienced soccer team today,” Gullion said. “Usually, we look like a team that’s learning – because we are a team that’s learning – and to see them playing like they … know what they’re doing out there was incredible.”
“For sure,” concurred Henderson. “We did get to see Telluride play, see what a No. 2 in the state looks like – how they play, how they communicate, how they move – and I really do think that played somewhat into today. Even if we did take a loss yesterday, I feel that definitely contributed at least in some degree.”
Making a little bit of Ignacio program history, Pontine managed to complete a rare hat trick not long before the final whistle when she converted a 40th-minute Chapman crossing pass which Dunbar initially deflected.
“We’ve really been working on passing … and throughout the season we’d been getting better and better. Del Norte was a good game to, like, try it out and really go hard,” Pontine said. “Our passing was really good and we were connecting today. Since I’d get to be on offense – I’m usually playing sweeper – it was a lot of extra motivation.”
“She wanted it so bad,” said Gullion. “I play her back … because she’s an amazing sweeper, but … . There’s a running joke on our team: The difference between coming out strong on offense and coming out strong on defense is where we put Pontine!”
Unofficially, the Lady ’Cats put on frame 16 of 21 total shots taken, and also earned two corner kicks. Dunbar unofficially totaled nine saves in defeat, while Cundiff made six total stops. Later dominated 8-0 by Telluride and set to forfeit a 6/4 visit to Ridgway as well as a slated 6/12 trip to THS, Del Norte ended up a fourth-place 3-7 overall/SWL.