Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
The bodies were willing, but the minds weren’t quite in sync.
And because of it, the Durango High School girls soccer team lost its slim edge in the Southwestern League.
Grand Junction scored in the first five minutes of each half and added a late tally for good measure, besting the Demons 3-0 on Friday at Riverview Sports Complex.
Durango entered the game with a one-game edge over the Tigers and Fruita Monument in the loss column in the SWL, but in the blink of an eye, the Tigers set out to flip spots in the standings.
Despite a strong push early, the Demons went down in the fifth minute. A DHS pass took an unfortunate hop, and the ball found the foot of Leah Swander, who split Durango’s central defense and scored into the left side of the net for a 1-0 lead.
“I think it mentally put us out of the game, and we didn’t show up with the same intensity. Once they scored we (weren’t) like, ‘Alright, let’s put it behind us. Let’s get another one,’” said Raquel Delgado, daughter of Mark and Winston Delgado.
DHS (6-4-1, 4-2-0 SWL) had several strong chances to equalize in the first half but couldn’t find the net. Grand Junction (7-3-0, 5-2-0 SWL) made the Demons pay right after intermission, scoring in the 41st minute.
Jordan Drake fended off a defender and tucked a shot under the crossbar from the top of the penalty area for a 2-0 Tigers’ advantage.
“To be honest, we feel like those mistakes came from our own loose play,” DHS head coach Aaron Eldridge said. “Both those first two goals came from our own ... I guess I can only describe them as mistakes.
“We could see the heads drop after that second goal, for sure.”
Durango pushed forward from there but couldn’t quite get the possession or opportunities it desperately desired. That’s when Grand Junction put the game away.
In the 73rd minute, Swander’s picture-perfect cross found an open Courtney Brady, who volleyed a shot in before it ever touched the ground.
“I think mentally, we were not sharp, and I think our play was a little naive,” Eldridge said. “Take nothing away from Grand Junction.”
While the Tigers cashed in their opportunities, Durango struggled to make the most of its chances. Brooke Milliet had perhaps the best chance in the ninth minute. Her low shot from the right of the penalty area was saved by a sprawling Lexi Anderson and trickled along the goal line but never crossed.
Delgado hit the crossbar in the 20th minute, and Milliet had a handful of other opportunities sail just wide. Stephanie Wilson was able to force a couple of first-half turnovers and made several great runs but couldn’t quite find the back of the net.
“It (stinks), and it’s kind of frustrating; there’s not another way to put it,” Delgado said. “We should finish those chances because we don’t get that many chances in a game, you know?”
After Friday’s setback, Durango now will meet the third team in what’s shaping up to be a tight race for the SWL crown. Fruita Monument will play DHS at 11 a.m. Saturday, and the Demons know it’ll take a more complete effort if they want to avoid dropping behind both the Wildcats and Tigers in the league race.
“Coming out of a game like this and knowing that it’s tight between three teams now, so the results really matter,” Eldridge said.