It was the game they wanted. It was not the result they wanted.
When members of the Liberty Common girls soccer team walked off the field after a 2-1 Class 3A Region 7 loss to Frontier Academy on Friday, tears stained their faces.
Maybe it was the way it happened, with a Frontier Academy 12-3, 8-1 Region 7) goal in the final minute of the game. Maybe it was how long both teams have waited for the game, which had been rescheduled because of snow three times. The Eagles (9-2-1, 7-1 Region 7) even grabbed shovels to clear the field Thursday after school.
“This loss was super tough, being our first conference loss and the conference championships,” senior midfielder Emily Yeh said, smiling back her grief. “In the long run, I know losing builds character. It will make us tougher, mentally, as a team. I think we’ll get over and we’ll be ready for playoffs.”
Those tears painted a picture of want. The Eagles had been looking forward to this game since the beginning of the season – their first as a CHSAA-sanctioned squad with playoffs to look forward to. Liberty Common needed a tie or a win for the conference title, and got neither.
Neither team scored in the first half, and Frontier Academy, which defended its league championship, struck early in the second half. Star striker Hannah Braun, who was essentially playing on one foot thanks to a sprained right ankle last week, found Anais Vargas who in turn found the net.
The Eagles weren’t out yet, as Kayla Rhoads, who had Liberty Common’s only shot on goal in the first half on a free kick, had another free kick in the 62nd minute.
She lofted the kick, which caressed the right upper 90 to give Liberty Common life once again.
“That was the best feeling of the game,” Yeh said. “Especially against a team like Frontier, you don’t know if you’re going to get another one. I’m glad that we lost 2-1 rather than 1-0 because it’s good to get that goal and feel that mentally being able to come back like that.”
Despite the loss, the playoffs are still there for the Eagles. The Wolverines defended their conference crown as both teams gave the other the best game of the season. For Rhoads, there was light at the end of the tunnel.
“I think it shows a lot being a new program and being able to get this far,” Rhoads said.
Tyler Silvy covers prep sports for The Coloradoan. Reach him via email at TylerSilvy@coloradoan.com or by phone at (970) 589-3829. Connect with him at Facebook.com/ColoradoanTylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.