It was a standing room only crowd late-Friday afternoon at the soccer pitch at the North Area Athletic Complex.
The Arvada-area rivalry boys soccer rivalry between Arvada West and Ralston Valley always fills the seats. For the second straight year, Ralston Valley came up on top with a 3-1 victory in the Class 5A Jeffco League opener for both teams.
“It’s always a dogfight. Everyone comes ready to play,” Ralston Valley senior captain Ryan Mann said. “This is what we live for with packed stands. This is what high school soccer is all about.”
Ralston Valley came into the league opener No. 1 in the Class 5A boys soccer CHSAA Selection and Seeding Index. The Mustangs (8-0-1, 1-0 in 5A Jeffco) are still undefeated under first-year coach John Doody.
However, A-West (2-4-3, 0-1) didn’t make it easy.
Ralston Valley dominated the scoring chances in the opening half, but could only manage a lone goal in the 24th minute by senior Owen Hennis.
A-West tied things up 1-1 a minute after the Mustang goal with a header from junior Leo Day that sailed over Ralston Valley goalie Evan Bierman.
“All the credit to them (A-West). We came out and played really great for those first 20 minutes creating a ton of chances, but not necessarily finishing them,” Doody said. “They turned around and stung us. They gave us some trouble. Credit to (A-West coach Ben Gantenbein) and his team. They made it difficult for us.”
Ralston Valley junior Cooper Hineline had a handful of scoring opportunities, but couldn’t hit the back of the net in the first 40 minutes.
The Wildcats nearly took the lead in the 39th minute with a trio of scoring chances from close range, but the cross bar, a save and a shot wide kept it tied going into halftime.
“Being 1-1 at halftime it’s a clean slate. Anything can happen in the second half,” Mann said. “Historically this season we’ve been really good in the second half. Even if we don’t start off well we pick it up. I had faith we could put it away.”
Ralston Valley did put it away with goals by senior Keegan Ulvedal (65th minute) and junior Emil Paulsen (74th minute) to seal the victory.
“We were patient and the boys came through,” Doody said of the two second-half goals. “I was certainly happy to get that third goal.”
The Mustangs have six conference games remaining starting with Lakewood on Tuesday, Oct. 3, back at NAAC. Ralston Valley is on path for a possible top seed for the 5A state tournament if the Mustangs can roll the table in league and stay undefeated.
“We are building toward something hopefully really good at the end of the season,” Doody said.
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to ColoradoPreps.com and CHSAANow.com.