Trailing 1-0 at halftime to a Montezuma-Cortez team it bested 4-0 earlier in the year, the Durango High School girls soccer team knew a loss likely would send its postseason position tumbling.
Durango rallied for three goals in the second half and a 3-1 victory over the Panthers on Thursday in Cortez, the Demons’ fourth consecutive victory to close the regular season.
DHS head coach Aaron Eldridge said 20 minutes of “ugly” soccer helped Cortez jump out early, something he credited to his squad’s heightened nerves.
“Honestly, we wanted them to have a little bit more intensity and speed in their play, but we also wanted them to relax a bit,” he said. “We were trying too hard to win balls that we couldn’t win instead of just keeping control of the play and getting ourselves in a little bit of trouble.”
The Demons (8-5-2, 6-1-2 Southwestern League) wiggled out of trouble after the break.
Blair Swearingen got the equalizer when her direct free kick from about 30 yards out brushed the goalkeeper’s fingertips but snuck under the crossbar.
The second goal Eldridge called “beautiful.” Stephanie Wilson used her head to flick a ball into the path of Marlene Conner, who snuck behind the defense and slotted the ball in the corner of the net.
DHS salted the game away when outside defender Amanda Jones made a long, uncontested run from the back and hit a shot from about 20 yards out that skipped between the keeper’s legs. Sarah Zemach had the assist.
“We really wanted to finish strong, especially looking at seeding for the playoffs and having started a little bit inconsistent,” Eldridge said.
Durango was missing scoring wiz Brooke Milliet because of an illness and didn’t get Zemach on the pitch until the second half.
“Sarah was waiting on the results of an MRI to come back,” said Eldridge, who didn’t get the clearance he needed until halftime. “It came back clean, and she was able to come in in the second half and helped change the game.”
Durango now awaits its postseason destination, and Class 4A pairings will be handed down Sunday. Eldridge said the Demons aren’t likely to host.