Lady Panthers kick forward

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Kenna Tarr sends the ball past a Grand Junction defender Friday at Johnson Field. The Lady Panthers tied the Lady Tigers, 4-4.

By Bobby Abplanalp Journal staff writer

The Lady Panthers came out and kicked Grand Junction in the face Friday at Johnson Field.

The 5A Lady Tigers didn't know what hit them on the soccer field.

Monteuzma-Cortez High School sent a message that it's a new team.

The Lady Panthers dominated offensively and never trailed Grand Junction. But coach Nate Ross' squad didn't have an answer for Lady Tigers' midfielder Leah Swander.

Swander single-handedly kept Grand Junction in the match. When M-CHS scored, Swander answered.

The Grand Junction sophomore scored three her team's four goals, but couldn't ever get her group over the hump.

M-CHS and Grand Junction settled for a 4-4 tie.

"Grand Junction High has consistently been one of the top two teams in this league," Ross said. "So, to be playing our game the way we're wanting to play against a team like that, the girls are excited. They're playing well."

A winded Lady Panthers group battled the chilling wind and a tough Fruita Monument team Saturday morning. M-CHS lost 2-0, but clearly sent a message to the Southwestern League that it is not a push over this season.

"Ties are one of those things that gets you in the playoffs," Ross said. "You want to win every game, but you can't be sad about a tie. I think it's going to help us in the tail end of our season, as far as making our playoff run."

Sophomore Gabby Wolf got M-CHS (2-2-2, 0-2-2 SWL) on the board in the fifth minute Friday off a pass from Allison Porter. Wolf took the assist just inside the box to make it 1-0.

However, Swander scored the equalizer just two minutes later on a breakaway goal. She juked goalkeeper Danielle Waltman out of position to knot the match 1-1.

That's where the score stood at halftime.

In the 47th minute, M-CHS junior Kenna Tarr launched a shot from just inside midfield. The ball took a huge bounce in the air, and off of the Grand Junction goalie and into the net for the most improbable of goals.

With the Lady Panthers back in front up 2-1, Swander responded. She broke through the defense and hit a solo goal to tie the score again 2-2.

Wolf scored her second goal in the 53rd minute off a perfect pass from Elana Bernholtz.

Back up 3-2, no lead is safe with Swander on the field.

The alert Lady Tiger saved the ball on the right sideline from going out of bounds. Swander then drove left to the center of the field, stopped, and kicked a straight away shot from 35-feet to make it 3-3.

In the 65th minute, Aubrey Lopez put the Lady Panthers back on top 4-3, scoring off an inbounds play.

But back came Grand Junction - again.

Jordan Drake scored a textbook header off a left corner kick, making the match a 4-4 tie.

Neither team scored through two overtimes. Although it was a tie, M-CHS felt like it had won.

"I'm really proud of our team. We've progressed a lot," Wolf said. "I'm progressing slowly, but surely. They (teammates) really help me out and give me my confidence to play my game."

The Lady Panthers play at rival Durango (3-2-1, 1-2-1 SWL) on Thursday at 5 p.m.

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