Demons set sights on new heights

DHS girls soccer trying to advance to 2nd round for first time since ’08

Taylor Woolverton and Durango will try and kick past Discovery Canyon for the Demons’ first playoff win since 2008 when the two teams meet at 5 p.m. today. Enlarge photo

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald file photo

Taylor Woolverton and Durango will try and kick past Discovery Canyon for the Demons’ first playoff win since 2008 when the two teams meet at 5 p.m. today.

This fairly new glass ceiling was established in 2008.

The Durango High School girls soccer team is a perennial playoff qualifier, finding itself in the postseason the last seven seasons. But since 2008, there’s been a lid on any further accomplishments beyond simply earning an invitation to the dance. A lid the Demons hope to not just gently twist off, but rip off, pry off, break off.

DHS hasn’t won a postseason game since a 2-1 first-round victory over Rampart five years ago today. They’ll look to repeat that feat as the No. 12 seed against No. 21 Discovery Canyon at 5 p.m. today at Riverview Sports Complex.

The Demons will try and break through on the backs of a young but talented roster that boasts just four seniors. DHS first-year head coach Dalon Parker said perhaps that youth could serve DHS well when it comes to breaking the drought.

“It helps that they haven’t went through the two years or the three years of getting to the playoffs, working hard, then not getting past the first round,” Parker said. “It kind of helps because they come in, and they’re like, ‘All right. Whatever.’ ... It also helps that we are so young that I don’t think we know any better. We’re just going to go play.”

Discovery Canyon would pose a challenge to any team – young, old or otherwise. Don’t let the seed fool you – the Thunder (8-5-2) played in one of, if not the best, Class 4A soccer conference in the state, the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference. Six of the PPAC’s eight teams are in the Class 4A field, including top-seeded Cheyenne Mountain. So the Thunder, led by Jamie Keith’s 15 goals, come in as battle-tested as anyone.

“When I saw Discovery Canyon, I said they’re not going to be your typical 21 seed. ... I had called it on the dot before it came out,” Parker said. “I said they’re going to place us with one of those Pikes Peak teams. That’s exactly what I said.”

The Demons, however, enter as perhaps one of the state’s hottest teams, capping their season by winning five of their last six games. The improvements have been as much physical as mental, as Parker said his team mentally turned a corner in a scrimmage last week against current Fort Lewis College soccer players and recent soccer alumni as their ability to make adjustments in the course of play suddenly seemed to click into high gear.

But it’s perhaps the team chemistry improvement over spring break that’s had the biggest impact on the Demons. DHS just had lost 7-1 to Pine Creek and sat with a pedestrian 5-3-1 record. Parker and the coaching staff got the team together most of the nights of the ensuing spring break, going bowling, watching movies, playing board games – anything to have the players spend time getting to know each other better.

“The other 50 percent was them just being willing to say, ‘OK, I’m going to spend my spring break with this girl that I’m not too sure about, but I might be a little bit sure about,’” Parker said. “And that was really what made it click because they laughed and had fun. ... They get to learn each other.”

The plan appeared to work. Communication appeared better, both between players and between players and coaches, coming out of the break as DHS topped Grand Junction Central and eventual Southwestern League champion Montrose to kick start the strong run to the finish that earned DHS a home game.

“We’re not just like a soccer team. We’re all friends. There’s no tension between anyone,” said senior Taylor Woolverton, daughter of Holly and Jeremy Whatcott.

“Since we all bond, we want to work for each other more on the field.”

While it’s the first go-round at the postseason for much of the DHS roster, there still are a few holdovers staring down one last shot at a playoff run. And for those few, the hope is all that work, all that bonding will pay off in a way it hasn’t quite yet.

“It would be nice my senior year to pull through and be able to say that we went past the first round,” Woolverton said.

rowens@durangoherald.com