ARVADA — It wasn’t supposed to end like this for Arvada West.
The Wildcats clinched their third consecutive league championship in dramatic fashion beating Ralston Valley with a late goal last week.
But against No. 22 seeded Liberty on Thursday night that dramatic late game goal never came and No. 11 A-West was beat 4-3 on penalty kicks during the first round of the 5A boys soccer playoffs at North Area Athletic Complex.
The two teams were scoreless in 110 minutes of regulation and overtime, and the longer that the underdog Liberty hung around the more confident they became.
And once the game got into penalty kicks Liberty senior goaltender Kyle Robinson knew they had the Wildcats right where they want them.
Robinson incredibly stopped Arvada West’s final two penalty kicks sprawling out to save what would have been two goals.
“I am comfortable in shootouts, it is something that we always work on,” Robinson said. “I am a senior too so I have been in a lot of them.”
With the shootout still tied 3-3 because of a big save by A-West sophomore goalie Andy Fendel, the Wildcats’ season was on life-support needing one more gigantic save. But it didn’t happen and Liberty junior Tyler Mellinger helped his team advance by drilling a ball that was low but still beat Fendel for a 4-3 win.
Perhaps things would have gone differently if the Wildcats had their starting netminder in senior Shazz Heale. Heale was given a red card in overtime after he and a Liberty player ran into each other on a scoring opportunity.
The obviously disappointed Heale could do nothing but sit and watch his team get beat.
“It is not the way you want your season to end, especially when you have a good team like we do,” A-West coach Troy Gette said. “But anything can happen in a shootout.”
But Gette also emphasized how proud of his team he was this season. The Wildcats had lost a dozen seniors to graduation, yet they responded to the challenge to win a third consecutive 5A Jeffco crown, finishing with a 12-4 record (7-1 in league play).