Columbine girls soccer gets back on track before the postseason begins

LAKEWOOD – Columbine senior Riley Kaali-Nagy had a career night on the soccer pitch Friday.

Kaali-Nagy not only scored a hat-trick in the first half, but totaled five goals before halftime in a dominating 8-1 victory for the Rebels at Lakewood Memorial Field.

“I’ve never done that before,” Kaali-Nagy said after going from 10 goals in the season to 15 goals after the first 40 minutes of play against the Rams. “It was really exciting.”

The senior forward got a well-deserved seat on the bench during the second half for Columbine – No. 5 in the CHSAANow.com Class 5A girls soccer rankings – with the game well in hand.

“My teammates worked really hard on getting me the ball up there,” Kaali-Nagy said. “I wanted to take advantage of those opportunities. We played two hard opponents this week and weren’t able to finish. Coming into this game I was ready to score. ”

The victory ended a 2-game losing streak as the Rebels (11-3-1, 6-1 in 5A Jeffco) closed out their regular-season schedule.

“We needed to have a good game. They did put together a good game, ”Columbine coach Brian Todd admitted after suffering 2-0 shutout losses to No. 1 Valor Christian and No. 4 Grandview earlier in the week. “Kenny (Green Mountain coach Ken Fehr) and Green Mountain are a good squad, but I think we rebounded from those two losses.”

The loss to Valor on Tuesday was a winner-take-all situation with the 5A Jeffco League title on the line. Despite the late-season losses, Columbine held the No. 5 spot in the RPI rankings after the win against Green Mountain (10-5, 7-2 in 4A Jeffco).

“Not only was it important to help get a better seed going into playoffs, but it was also important to have a better taste in our mouths before we go into playoffs,” Kaali-Nagy said of the win before the Rebels get a look at the 32-team 5A state bracket that will be released on Sunday.

Kaali-Nagy’s goals came in the 5th, 6th, 12th, 32nd and 38th minutes. Junior Andrea Iljkic sandwiched in a goal after Kaali-Nagy’s second goal as the Rebels took a 6-0 lead at halftime.

“We just didn’t score on our opportunities in those two games,” Todd said of the losses to Valor and Grandview. “We had opportunities to score against Valor and Grandview before we gave up a goal. We just didn’t punch those away. ”

Columbine had no problem scoring against the Rams, who had won five of their last six games heading into the regular-season finale for both playoff-bound teams.

“We needed a result to finish off the (regular) season to get some mojo back,” Todd said. “I feel like we did that today.”

Green Mountain prevented the shutout when senior Avery Kroeger found the back of the net in the 54th minute, but Columbine sophomore Olivia Ashbrook scored in the 55th and 72nd minutes to close out the victory.

The Rams occupy the No. 19 spot in the 4A RPI rankings after the loss. It’s likely Green Mountain will be on the road for its opening playoff game Wednesday, May 11.

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