ECA rolls to playoff-opening girls' soccer victory

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Beginning and ending with goals from Elizabeth Bunker, Evangelical Christian Academy rolled to start the postseason, taking down Rocky Mountain Lutheran 4-1 on Tuesday night at El Pomar Youth Sports Complex in the first round of the girls' soccer Class 2A state championship.

Fifth-seeded ECA had won four straight coming into the game and the opponents each had seven wins and losses, but No. 12 seed Rocky Mountain Lutheran turned out to be outmatched.

"Everybody was definitely on their best game tonight," junior midfielder April Mann said.

ECA put pressure on Rocky Mountain Lutheran early and never let up. Brie Karlstrum, who led ECA with 12 goals during the regular season, got behind the RML goalkeeper but couldn't track down the ball in time.

Minutes later, Bunker opened the scoring, taking a cross and putting it in the bottom left corner.

The higher-seeded Eagles pressed on, opening a 2-0 lead when Mann, who had been a step ahead of everyone so far, picked off a defender and sent a long shot into the goal.

"As long as we start out well, we can run them all over the field," senior defender Hannah Unger said. "We've been improving so much, passing better in every game."

Karlstrum was rewarded when her perfectly placed shot from just inside the box went over the RML goalkeeper's outstretched fingertips, leaving everyone - including herself - awestruck.

"That was just a beautiful shot," coach Drew Morton said. "She doesn't do it often, but she can do it."

Maggie Kirkpatrick, who carried a 1.4 goals-allowed average into the game, wasn't tested often. But Rocky Mountain Lutheran sneaked one in to end her shutout bid late in the second half.

Bunker - who relieves Kirkpatrick in goal and had three tallies all season - added an insurance goal in the waning minutes.

ECA will face No. 4 seed Denver Christian on Friday in Englewood. The Eagles fell in the quarterfinals last season.

"We've got a long road ahead of us, but this was a fabulous effort by the girls," Morton said. "It gets harder. Thursday and Friday, we'll be ready."