Palmer Ridge loses state title in snowy shootout

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Jonathan Maness
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COMMERCE CITY - The Palmer Ridge soccer team had to worry about more than the undefeated Battle Mountain Huskies on Saturday in the state title match.

The top-seeded Bears struggled with the winter-like conditions which kept Palmer Ridge’s high-powered offense scoreless for 110 minutes and helped the No. 6 Huskies get the victory 1-0 on penalty kicks (4-2) at Dick’s Sporting Good Park.

“Both teams played their hearts out,” Palmer Ridge’s coach Nick Odil said.

In the shootout, the two squads each converted on their first two kicks but Battle Mountain’s goalkeeper senior Christian Espinova proved why he was one of the best in the state.

He stopped shots by Jacob Kochanski and Gustav Seifert to open the door for the Huskies.

Battle Mountain took advantage of the opportunity, converting kicks from Joe LyBarger and Heivan Garcia. 

“I just thought our boys did really well,” Battle Mountain’s coach David Cope said. “Even in these conditions our boys tried to knock it around. In the end, it wasn’t happening.”

Palmer Ridge did have its chances throughout the game - the Bears nearly got on board in the eight-minute mark but Espinova stopped Seifert’s attempt. Jake Zec also had a chance in the second half but was called offside.

The Bears also found themselves a man down in the second overtime after getting a red card. The loss ended a miraculous run for the Bears, who won 12 consecutive games to advance to the state title. They rolled through the first three rounds, beating Wheat Ridge (5-1), Widefield (1-0), Cheyenne Mountain (1-0) and Mullen (5-0) in the state playoffs.

Last season, Palmer Ridge lost to Cheyenne Mountain in the second round of the playoffs. Battle Mountain finished the season with a perfect 20-0 record, while Palmer Ridge finished 17-2-1.

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