Durango High School girls lacrosse head coach Natalie Mitchell had no idea how her team would respond Thursday afternoon against Grand Junction High School when her team forced overtime as it stormed back from a two-goal deficit at DHS. It was uncharted territory, as it was the first overtime game for the players and for Mitchell as the Demons’ head coach.
Kiara Vally scored the game-winning goal with 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining in overtime to lift the Demons to a 9-8 win against the Tigers.
“It’s overtime, it’s sudden-death, and anything can happen, so you’re never really sure how your girls are going to react,” Mitchell said. “A lot of players shut down in moments like this, but every single girl on our team stepped it up and was in hyper-focus mode, took care of the ball, made smart decisions, and I’m really proud of them.”
Valley’s goal was even bigger than one win in the context of the season. The girls lacrosse team at DHS has been around for a decade but had only played in two previous overtime games – a 2016 13-12 loss to Steamboat Springs and a 2013 11-10 loss to the Tigers. The senior captain’s game-winner delivered the first overtime win in team history.
“I knew I wanted to drive on goal, and they played really good defense on me all day long,” Valley said. “Once I beat my first defender and saw it was a 1-v-1 scenario, I saw the back of the goal, shot it on the right side and got it. ... It was a lot pressure for me because I had a lot of shots but they weren’t going in, but I got lucky on that one. To score the game-winner and celebrate with my teammates was the best feeling ever.”
The Demons (2-4, 2-2 Mountain League) were down one at halftime, but the Tigers scored 54 seconds into the second half to make it 7-5.
Halfway through the second half, Valley scored her first goal of the second half on a free-position shot, but the Tigers pushed the lead back to two with 7:41 left.
Down the stretch, DHS threatened, but Grand Junction goalie Anela Cronk made five saves in the second half to keep the Tigers ahead. She finished with eight saves on the afternoon.
With 1:37 remaining, DHS broke through, as Autumn Rymerson scored. The Demons won the ensuing draw control and went back to the well, as Rymerson scored again and tied the game at eight with 1:17 to play.
The Tigers (3-4, 3-3 ML) won the draw control in overtime and were able to get off a few designed plays, but a foul was called at the 8-meter line. In essentially a one on one scenario, Rymerson was lightning fast off of the line and was able to knock the ball loose before the Tigers got off a shot.
Grand Junction head coach Morgan Holloway thought the Tigers did everything right but score.
“We did have a couple of strategies in mind going into overtime,” Holloway said. “We wanted to utilize that possession the best we could, but unfortunately it didn’t pan out. Credit to Durango for playing good defense, and it was a bummer that we couldn’t pull this off.”
Mitchell was equally impressed by the Demons’ defense.
“I’ve never seen anyone get off of the line that fast to cause a turnover,” Mitchell said. “(Rymerson) caused the turnover, Kayla (Willis) picked up the ball and had a great transition for us down the field. We had a play called and we were going to settle, but I told them to look for that drive if it’s open. Kiara got the ball, saw a lane open, drove, got fouled and was able to put it in the back of the net. The entire sequence really was unbelievable, and I’m so happy that we came out on top.”
Seven different players got on the scoresheet for Durango, including Greta Cahill, Gwyneth Irwin, Riley Garcia, Virginia Herr and Alexia Wold, while Cahill and Paige Ammerman added an assist. The Tigers were led by Taylor Paumen, who scored three goals, while Arika Obedencia-Botts had two.
DHS will host Summit at noon Saturday.