The last two weeks, they were road warriors. But sometimes all good things come to an end. And Monticello had a good idea that going up against unbeaten Riverside and in a fourth straight road contest in the Group 3/4A semifinals was going to be an uphill battle.
“I told the girls before the game, watching the film on them, that this team is good,” said Mustangs coach Trent Holden. “Their passing is unreal.”
The Rams came out swinging early and their ball movement was on point. With a 7-0 start and a 13-2 lead at the half, Monticello was in an undesirable hole against a strong team having a good day. The Mustangs rallied early in the second half, but Riverside was not going to be denied as it held serve at home and wrapped up a state title game bid with its 18-6.
“My big thing at halftime was to go out fighting,” Holden said. “I told the girls I didn’t care at the end of the day what the score was but the important thing was that we left everything we had out on the field. Getting two quick ones to start the second proved that I think and in the second half we were only outscored 5-4, so I was happy about that. I wish we had come out and played like that (in the first) but Riverside has an exceptional team. For us to play a team like this, this is the level you have to play at if you want to win a state championship.”
For the Rams, Manhattan College commit Rachel Giachinta and Kendra Keyser were forces, and the depth around them made things even tougher. The duo combined for four of the first eight Riverside goals. With 20:51 left in the first half, the Rams had already staked a 4-0 with the first of Giachinta game high five goals. Making matters tough though was that seven of Riverside’s first 12 goals were assisted.
“It’s crazy because this team, most of them are pretty young but they just don’t know how not to work together,” said Rams coach Kristan Ash. “They play together, they share the ball and none of them care about stats.”
The next ten minutes were more even though with Carly Harris coming up big in goal. The Mustangs offense adapted as Riverside decided early on that Monticello’s Paige McGlothlin would be heavily shadowed and sometimes doubled up all game long.
Monticello made it a 7-2 game with 8:39 left after Caleigh Smith broke up the shutout and Josie Mallory scored two minutes later.
“We were not sure what to expect, Monticello was an unknown for us,” Ash said. “We know they’re skilled — and you don’t get this far without being a well-coached team.”
But a 6-0 sprint in the final eight minutes of the first half gave Riverside the 13-2 lead going into the break to get after the clock in the second.
“It’s just a matter of them finding each other, not rushing, taking their time and not rushing to create,” Ash said.
Monticello made it 13-4 with back-to-back goals by Ari Archer and Mallory. But that was as close as the Mustangs could get as Riverside methodically worked through possession and converted when it had to. Senior Meghan Walin wound up scoring the last two goals for Monticello.
The Mustangs graduate Harris, Sophia Shepherd, McKenna Smith, Kendall Walin, Chole Brannock and Sydney Mincer.
“The talk in the middle of the season was that no group of girls has gotten to this point in the season,” Holden said. “That was my big thing for my seniors. This was your year.”
With Mallory, McGlothlin, Smith, Archer and Meghan Walin back in the fold, the Mustangs have a ton of talent returning and are hopeful that getting to their first final four was just one step to be followed by another.
“I get the entire offense and midfield back,” Holden said. “We have a lot of good growth coming up and we’re returning a lot of great girls.”