Ralston Valley gets the playoff monkey off its back

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ARVADA — A seven-year drought ended Oct. 26 for Ralston Valley’s boys soccer program.

The Mustangs — No. 8-seed for the Class 5A state tournament — grabbed a dominating 6-0 victory over No. 25 Northglenn at the North Area Athletic Complex. It was the first postseason victory for Ralston Valley on the boys soccer pitch since 2015.

“I didn’t really talk about it,” Ralston Valley junior Ryan Mann said of the postseason losing streak. “Today is a new day. We are a new team. We wanted to take care of business and that is what we did today.”

The last playoff victory for Ralston Valley was against Fossil Ridge seven years ago. The Mustangs came into Wednesday’s game with a 0-5 record in first-round playoff games since 2016.

“A little bit,” Ralston Valley coach Jamie Scarcliff said when asked if she felt like a monkey had been lifted off the Mustangs’ back with the playoff win. “I was anxious going into today. We’ve struggled in the first round in the past. It’s always tough to be the higher seed because there are always upsets. You don’t want to be the one who gets upset.”

Sophomore Cooper Hineline had a first-half performance to remember to get the Mustangs on an early stampede of goals. The forward had a hat-trick before halftime with goals in the 7th, 24th and 26th minutes to give the Mustangs a commanding 3-0 lead.

“I’ve had a few hat-tricks in my career, but never one that quick,” Hineline said. “I’m happy. I’ve never done that in my career.”

Hineline’s first goal came off a direct free kick that he rocketed past Northglenn senior goalie Carlos Castaneda Rodelo. The next two goals were in the run of play two minutes apart.

“He (Hineline) is an amazing player. He is good in big games,” Mann said of Hineline. “He showed out for us today which was really big for our team.”

Rodelo made a couple of diving saves to keep it a 3-0 lead for the Mustangs (11-5 record) going into halftime. Ralston Valley junior goalie Evan Bierman keep it a clean sheet in the first half stopping just the few shots the Norse (9-7) had on goal.

Mann extended the lead to 4-0 with a penalty kick goal in the 57th minute. 

“Second half you are always worried that the other team is going to come out firing and get one to change momentum,” Mann said. “That PK was huge to keep the momentum.”

Ralston Valley sealed the victory with senior Pablo Molla Tejero’s goal in the 70th minute and then a direct free kick in the 78th minute from an unlikely source. Back-up goalie Donovan Meador took the free kick and sailed it into the top right corner of the net to put a perfect ending on the 6-0 victory. The Mustangs’ bench erupted after Meador’s first goal of the year.

“I’m proud of them,” Scarcliff said. “The kids have worked really hard. We’ve worked really hard to get to that 8th (seed). We worked hard to prepare for today.”

No. 24 Liberty upset No. 9 Monarch 5-3 in a first-round game. The Lancers (9-6-1) traveled to the NAAC to face Ralston Valley in the second round on Tuesday, Nov. 1, after press deadline. The Mustangs took a 2-0 victory over Liberty in Colorado Springs during a non-league game back on Sept. 15.

“I think we can go compete with all of them,” said Scarcliff, who purposely scheduled a tough schedule that included five teams that were top-10 seeds for the 5A state tournament. “I’m excited to see how we do. I’m excited to be taking on Liberty. We’ve got a tough battle against Liberty having to play them again.”

Mann believes the Mustangs are primed for a long playoff run.

“I think we owed it to our school. We owed it to our coaching staff and more importantly to ourselves,” Hineline said of the Mustangs moving into the second round of the playoffs.

Dennis Pleuss is the sports information director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.

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