Unexpected goalkeeper play boosts Lewis-Palmer in defense of 4A girls' soccer crown

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Photo - FILE - Lewis-Palmer' goalkeeper Haley Arsenault sends the ball back to the other end of the field during a game against Cheyenne Mountain. (photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)
FILE - Lewis-Palmer' goalkeeper Haley Arsenault sends the ball back to the other end of the field during a game against Cheyenne Mountain. (photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)

Heading into the girls' soccer season, defending 4A state champion Lewis-Palmer, with 12 seniors, knew it had most of the pieces in place to make a serious run at defending its title.

There was one rather large question mark.

Who would step in and replace departed all-state goalie Haley Arsenault, who registered 12 shutouts and allowed only six goals in 19 games during the 2016 title run?

As it turned out, third-year Rangers coach Ryan Parsons received his answer, and then some, from three transfers.

They have turned a potential liability into a strength as No. 3 Lewis-Palmer (15-2) prepares to host No. 6 Windsor (16-1) in a 4A quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Don Breese Stadium in Monument.

"To be honest, it worked out better than I ever could have imagined," Parsons said. "Right after last year, I went from not thinking I'd have a goalkeeper to having three goalkeepers. The three just push each other, and the great thing is they cheer each other on. They make each other better."

Leading the charge is junior Kaity Hovasse, who started her high school career at Mesa Ridge but transferred prior to her sophomore year to be closer to older brother Charlie, who starred on the boys' basketball team.

She excelled on the basketball court as well, averaging 12.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in her first two seasons.

But the former keeper at Mesa Ridge knew there would be a void upon Arsenault's graduation and decided to put her best hands forward.

"I knew they needed a keeper, and I got out my old gloves," Hovasse said. "I was surprised how quickly I got back into it. It was like riding a bike. Goalkeeping in soccer is so natural for me, but I have a lot of help from my defense and the veteran leadership on my team. They make my job a lot easier."

The Rangers, who also have received solid keeper play in reserve roles from California move-in Audrey Garcia and Discovery Canyon transfer Yana Brown, have allowed only 12 goals, including a 10-game shutout streak that started March 22 and didn’t end until the regular-season finale May 5.

Hovasse, however, has emerged as the hot hand.

"Kaity has earned that starting spot," Parsons said. "In big games, she's stepped up. She got that opportunity and she took it."

As far as big games go, Wednesday's tilt against a Windsor squad that has yielded only six goals all season doesn't get much bigger.

And that's still a new feeling for Hovasse. Luckily, she has plenty of friends who have been here before.

"Throughout my basketball career, we never made it to the playoffs, so inside, I'm jumping for joy," Hovasse said. "It's my first time getting this far, and my nerves are definitely there. The girls have to calm me down, and I'm very thankful for that."