Jaguars soccer growing up

Rock Canyon's Erin Webb takes a shot at the goal April 21 during the team's loss to Highlands Ranch at Shea Stadium. The Falcons beat the Jaguars 4-0. Photo by Courtney Kuhlen
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After a 4-2 win over Ponderosa, Rock Canyon has its eyes on the Continental League title.

Jaguars girls soccer earned a 5-0-2 record after the win over Ponderosa, 5-2-4 overall. With such a quality league season thus far, the Jags, led by coach Matt Henbest in his third season with the program, may be looking at their first appearance in the Class 5A playoffs.

Henbest admits Rock Canyon hasn’t been known for its girls soccer, at least since the program made its jump from 3A to 4A. However, things are about to change and starting to already.

With four games left in the season, the Jaguars appeared to only need one more win to be certain of a playoff birth. If they continue to win out, their final game against powerhouse Mountain Vista may be for the league title. After Ponderosa, Rock Canyon was second in the league standings prior to facing Highlands Ranch. Ranch beat Rock Canyon 4-0 April 21 in Highlands Ranch to drop the Jags to a 5-1-2 record in Continental play.

Although the Jaguars still needed to work on their consistency, Henbest was optimistic about a post-season possibility in the team’s first 5A playoffs ever, having made the jump from 4A.

“We haven’t played our best game yet, but I’m hoping that happens here shortly,” the coach said. “We’re a pretty young team.”

By young, Henbest means the varsity team has five seniors, but only two or three have been starting. The team’s goals have been scored by mostly sophomores, freshmen and one junior. Several freshman and sophomore players were forced to fill in this season, including between the pipes.

However, the work of the team’s seniors, including Bre Duran, Lacy Hardway, Kerry O’Connor, Kasey South and Katie Kennedy, has been predominantly behind the scenes.

“The seniors work hard to make this a good, cohesive bunch,” Henbest said. “It’s there attitude in practice that has made the difference, even though they know they may not get on the field.”

One area where the Jaguars have struggled is getting the final goal, but this has also improved.

“We have more ties than we should have,” the coach said. “We have not won a whole lot of close games in the two and a half years I’ve been here, but we’re starting to now.”

For example, Rock Canyon finished off a 3-2 final over Castle View earlier this season in overtime. The team looks forward to their chance at Mountain Vista. Henbest sees it as a good indication of where the team could be against 5A state playoff teams.

“I’m optimistic about it. We’re getting close to where we want to be, but the team and coaches realize we’re not there yet,” Henbest said. “[The players] have a lot of faith and really believe they can win and capable of just about anything when they step out on the field.”

Among their younger players, Casey Young and Morgan Storch have been standing out. Storch leads the team in goals with eight and has one assist. Young has five in the net and assisted two. Henbest said Storch has been a surprise in scoring goals, given she is so effective on defense and hard to get around.

“She has been in the right place at the right time,” the coach said.

As for Young, Henbest said you can find more maturity in the first-year varsity player than in most freshman players. She is one of the team’s more creative players, he said.

In addition to their success on the field, Rock Canyon’s players are making waves in the classroom as well.

“I think these girls at Rock Canyon represent the very best the community has to offer,” Henbest said. “They take AP classes. Their involved in community service. They are a fine group of kids, and they are fun to support.”

With the five seniors putting their stamp on the program at the start of what could be Jags girls soccer turning a corner in its history, Henbest expects to see his younger talent excited to keep things happening at Rock Canyon.