Lewis-Palmer wins girls' soccer state title it barely missed last year

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Photo - Lewis-Palmer players come together for a chant after their 1-0 win against Valor Christian after the 4A girls Soccer State Championships at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette
Lewis-Palmer players come together for a chant after their 1-0 win against Valor Christian after the 4A girls Soccer State Championships at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette

COMMERCE CITY - Just north of Denver, another Orange Crush paved a legacy as it sent longtime Lewis-Palmer girls' soccer coach Joe Martin into retirement a winner.

An impenetrable defense kept No. 7 Valor Christian reeling, and Annica Fletemeyer's early goal gave the top-seeded Rangers all they needed in a 1-0 victory in the Class 4A state title game Wednesday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

Martin, who is calling it quits after a 30-year coaching career, left the field with tears in his eyes. He couldn't have asked for a better finale.

"It's amazing," Martin said. "It's everything we've wanted, everything the girls wanted."

At times, this title game emulated that of last year's, where the Rangers had chances but couldn't finish enough of them in a 2-1 loss in penalty kicks to Cheyenne Mountain. But thanks to a suffocating defensive performance and domination in possession, Lewis-Palmer (19-1) rewrote the ending to its 2015 heartbreak.

"We had this saying called 'Unfinished Business,'" Fletemeyer said. "We finally finished the business from last year. It's an unreal feeling to be with this team and a part of this win. It's just unreal."

Fletemeyer scored in the 18th minute to give the Rangers the lead. Brianna Alger hit her with a pinpoint pass around the top of the box, and the junior sent a right-footed chance into the left corner of the net for her fourth goal of the postseason.

The defense took over from there.

The Rangers, who moved Alger from her natural forward position to midfield at the outset to help counter the Eagles' attack, never broke on the defensive side. Valor Christian (16-4) had only two shots on net, a pretty remarkable stat since it had averaged 3½ goals coming into Wednesday.

Lewis-Palmer, meanwhile, ended the season with a six-game shutout streak, the last five coming in the postseason.

"Their strong point was their offense," Rangers co-coach Ryan Parsons said. "Our thought process today was to work smarter not harder. Just working those angles and shut those down. If they do get by us, we turned and worked for each other. And they did it. . We did what we needed to do."

SOCCER STATE CHAMPS
Lewis-Palmer midfielder Sarah Lyons prepares to pass the ball while being defended by Valor Christian midfielder Nicole Wright during the 4A girls Soccer State Championships at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette 

Lewis-Palmer had a handful of chances to add to its lead later in the game. Among them, Sarah Lyons had a bullet shot that rung off the top crossbar in the closing minutes of the first half. Alger had two other chances denied in the second half.

No matter, though. The defense came up big in the final minutes: Haley Arsenault swatted a laser shot from Cori Dyke in the 59th minute. And in the final 100 seconds, when the Eagles looked to have a chance in the box, the Rangers stayed calm and cleared it away.

It was Lewis-Palmer's first title in girls' soccer since 1996.

Alger said: "This has been our goal all season."