ThunderRidge resists Rock Canyon for fourth state title

COMMERCE CITY — Even before her high school career began, Becca Winton was kicked out.

At age 12, Winton was cut off because he wasn’t tall enough. But when it mattered most, the junior ThunderRidge goaltender made a career-high nine saves, including six in the second half, as the 10th-seeded Grizzlies beat No. 17 Rock Canyon 1-0 , in the Class 5A State Championship. Thursday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

The title is the fourth in program history and the first since 2022. All-time, T-Ridge is undefeated in title games at 4-0 since his first in 1999.

“(Rock Canyon) is a lot bigger than me, I’m honest,” Winton said. “But having that confidence to play like I’m six feet out is what takes me to the next level.”

Winton’s six saves in the final 45 minutes came as the 17th-seeded Jaguars (11-6-2) looked to pull off another shock after beating three top-10 seeds en route to a final. But on Thursday, Winton got up on her head as Rock Canyon piled on the pressure late. She made two crucial saves in the final six minutes, one with 50 seconds remaining to prevent Colorado Rapids head coach Robin’s daughter Nicki Fraser from a header as she was stretching and denying a shot intended for the bottom left corner. .

The Grizzlies struck first in the 28th minute after having two big chances that Rock Canyon defended well. The breakthrough came as junior midfielder Reese Clem produced a brilliant solo effort. She received a pass and cut inside two Jaguar defenders and unleashed a shot from 23 yards which hit the underside of the crossbar and went in to make it 1-0.

“I tried those shots every game, they all went over (the crossbar) or on the keeper,” Clem said. “I’m not left handed, you should have seen my face, I was in shock.”

If Clem was shocked by her goal at the bar, she was not surprised by her captain between the posts.

“She’s superhuman, I don’t understand. She’s crazy,” Clem said.

The ThunderRidge Grizzlies celebrate a 1-0 win over the Rock Canyon Jaguars for the Class 5A Women’s Soccer Championship at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on May 25, 2023 in Commerce City, Colorado. ThunderRidge goalkeeper Becca Winton (0) has her arm held aloft by a team mate after the game. Winton makes plenty of key vaults on goal late in the game. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

The Grizzlies left at halftime to thunderous applause from a large student section.

In the second half, Rock Canyon turned up the heat from the opening whistle. In the 46th minute, Fraser was able to use his speed to pass the ThunderRidge defenders down the left side but couldn’t find the right angle as his shot was blocked. Shortly after, Isa Winton of the Grizzlies attempted a long-range effort, but RCHS goaltender Jasper Lorenz pawed in his own diving effort.

As the Jaguars pressed on, including more free-kick chances like a 53rd-minute free-kick, it looked like Rock Canyon would find an answer. The Jaguars floated balls around the box looking for their greatest players, but never found an equalizer. While Rock Canyon head coach Mat Henbest said he was proud of his team’s fight, it still wasn’t enough to win the program’s first state title.

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