Something just has to give

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald file photo

Amanda McAliney and Durango will look to shut down Wheat Ridge’s potent offense when the two teams meet in the opening round of the playoffs at 5 p.m. today at Riverview Sports Complex.

By Ryan Owens Herald staff writer

Firepower, meet brick-wall defense.

Not that Durango High School’s scoring lacks any punch or Wheat Ridge isn’t capable defensively. But it’s the high-octane offense of the Farmers against the ironclad defense of the Demons that likely will provide the most intriguing matchup today.

The Durango High School girls soccer team, seeded 14th, will host No. 19 Wheat Ridge at 5 p.m. today at Riverview Sports Complex in the first round of the CHSAA Class 4A playoffs, the first home playoff game since 2010’s Class 5A first-round loss to Liberty in double overtime.

As for Wheat Ridge, Durango head coach Aaron Eldridge said the matchup is a bit intriguing to figure out, seeing as neither team has a common opponent. But he said it appears Wheat Ridge doesn’t lose games it shouldn’t while battling tight with the upper echelon teams in the Jefferson County League.

“They look like they’re winning the games they should win and losing (close) games, respectively, to good teams,” he said.

The Farmers (5-8-2) of the Jeffco League boast an offense that’s scored 53 goals this season, good for 15th-best in Class 4A. Leading the way is midfielder Macee Broer with 12 goals and seven assists, and she’s helped by Brooke Livingston and Annie Browne, who each have seven total goals for potent Wheat Ridge.

But Eldridge said he has the utmost confidence in the defensive corps of the Demons, thanks to the repeat quality performances put forth by starting defenders Meghan O’Brien, Erin Maxwell, Amanda Urban and Amanda Jones and goalkeeper Karlee Mulkey.

All seniors, the experienced unit has allowed just eight total goals this year and has held eight opponents scoreless in racking up a 10-4-1 record and a Southwestern League championship – the second in three years.

“We have confidence in our defense,” Eldridge said. “Especially if there’s one player to keep an eye on, we like to think as a team we can defend one player, but it looks like they have several players that can score. We would just rely on staying organized and being smart.”

Also, 41 of Wheat Ridge’s goals came in four blowouts over lesser competition. Aside from a pair of sizeable wins over Montezuma-Cortez, the spread of Durango’s 34 total goals has been a bit more judicious. Defensively, the Farmers have allowed 18 goals this season and appear to use a revolving system of goalkeepers.

That could play into the hands of a Durango attack that, despite an average goal total, passes the eye test more often than not in person. The Milliet sisters, Brooke and Lauren, have come on strong of late. Senior Brooke Milliet finished with a team-leading nine goals, while freshman Lauren Milliet had six goals and four assists in her debut season.

Not to be forgotten is Raquel Delgado, who’s chipped in six goals and a team-leading seven assists. In all, 12 different Demons have found the net this season.

“The best defense is a good offense, right?” Eldridge said, chuckling.

That offensive output will be crucial if the Demons hope to make their sixth consecutive postseason appearance more memorable than the others. In that span, DHS advanced past the first round just once, in 2008, and in that season, the Demons were ousted in Round 2.

Eldridge said he would like nothing more than to end that run of early exits.

“Don’t make me jinx us,” he said, laughing. “I would like to think (we’d advance), I really would. I get a lot of compliments on the way the team plays ... so I would like to think those fundamentals that we kind of try to instill in the girls are going to take us somewhere.”

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