COMMERCE CITY — The Northfield High School girls soccer team worked all year and traveled across the Front Range with one goal in mind: play for the Class 4A title literally right down the block from where the journey began.
Northfield, the No. 7 seed, defeated top-seeded Windsor 4-3 in a five-round penalty kick shootout Tuesday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to claim the first girls soccer championship in Denver Public Schools history.
“Every day the girls drive to school, every day they go home to their families, every time they train with their club, they can see this stadium,” Nighthawks head coach Daniel Nestor said. “… I knew we could go deep but once we beat Evergreen in the quarterfinals, that’s when everything became surreal. From that point forward it was about being on this pitch.”
The Nighthawks were just the the second DPS club to even reach the championship round, with Denver East the first back in 1991. To pull off the win they had to survive a scoreless regulation and two overtime periods before winning on a shootout.
Freshman goalkeeper Chloe Rhodes, who comes from a family of goalkeepers, made three huge saves in regulation, then made the game-winning save at the end of the shootout with a dive to her right to deny Wizards defender Emma Jenkins to secure the win.
“When I stepped up to the six-yard box to try and intimidate her a bit and looked her in the eyes, I don’t know, I just knew … I dove the right way,” Rhodes said.
Northfield (19-0-1) — a school that has only been in existence for eight years, and has only had a varsity girls program for four years — entered Tuesday with a 15-game winning streak. Windsor (17-3), out of the 4A/5A Northern League, entered with an eight-game winning streak and was looking for its second title in the last five season.
Both teams were hesitant in the first half and it was scoreless at the break with four shots between them. In the second half, Windsor came out on the front foot. Wizards’ midfielder Sam Darnell hit the post in the 49th minute but it ultimately went to overtime.
The Wizards had eight corner kicks on the night and three chances came to Carty Kingsbury, but two were saved and another in the first half went just wide of the post.
“It’s so hard to get to a championship,” Windsor head coach Mike Lordemann said. “We got here, we didn’t quite finish but we got here. It will hurt, but the sun will come up tomorrow and it’s a great life lesson for us.”
3A final: Kent Denver 3, Jefferson Academy 0
In the class 3A game, Kent Denver won its second successive title with a shutout of Jefferson Academy. The Sun Devils (18-1) won their seventh girls soccer championship in program history.
On Tuesday, they scored all three goals in the first half. Izzy Newton opened the scoring in the seventh minute, Maria Romo-Nichols put a second away in the 11th minute, and Newton put the game to bed with a penalty kick with under five minutes remaining in the first half.
The Sun Devils ended the season with a 17-game winning streak, and had outscored their opponents 112-5.