GREENWOOD VILLAGE — Grandview girls soccer coach Tari Wood took her team on a mountain retreat at the beginning of the season atop a rope course at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp near Westcliffe.
“That was so scary,” senior midfield Natalie Beckman said.
But the trip’s intent went far beyond overcoming fears. Wood, entering her 20th overall season with the program, needed something to bring her young team together in its quest for a third 5A state championship in four years.
“Doing high ropes with your teammates and having to depend on each other to hold yourselves up,” Wood said, “it really set us on a good path of knowing each other and believing.”
That much was clear Wednesday night in the state playoff quarterfinals against Rocky Mountain after Grandview advanced with a 5-0 victory at the Stutler Bowl. The top-seeded Wolves move on to face Mountain Vista in the semifinals Saturday.
However, it wasn’t a clear-cut victory from the start for Grandview. It entered the half in a scoreless tie against Rocky — among the more dominant defensive teams in the state with just four total goals allowed all season prior to Wednesday. But the Wolves didn’t panic out of the break.
“I knew (Rocky) was going to get tired,” Wood said. “They were going 100 percent the entire time, and they only have like 14 field players. If we just possessed, put it on the ground and stopped playing the game they play in the air, the goals were going to come. And that’s what they did.”
Grandview thoroughly dominated the second half with goals from junior midfielder Kacy Johnston, Beckman, sophomore midfielder Sara Schlichting, senior midfielder Morgan Szarka and senior forward Lauren Juul.
Beckman and Szarka are the only remaining players from Grandview’s 2015 and 2016 state championship teams, and now they’ve willed the Wolves back into contention for another championship push.
“It says a lot about their leadership,” Wood said.
And it all started while dangling high above the Colorado wilderness on a set of ropes.
“It helped us get close with people that we might not have talked with as much because they’re in a different class,” said Beckman, who signed to play at the University of Denver next season. “Honestly, this is one of the best team chemistries we’ve ever had. I think it boils down to we just like being around each other.”