MURRAY — Things did not look good at all for Cottonwood going into its second game of the season with Skyline.
The Colts had been dealt an upset loss by lightly regarded Hunter just two days earlier. And they were facing an Eagles team that had given up just one goal to their Region 2 opponents and a grand total of four all season.
Still, Cottonwood did not see itself as a proverbial speed bump in Skyline's path to winning a region title. The Colts looked at themselves as more of a roadblock to the Eagles.
"It was the biggest game of our season and of our lives basically," senior sweeper Grace Amis said. "We were so ready for this game."
Cottonwood played like it too. The Colts outhustled and outmuscled Skyline and scored three second-half goals to string together a convincing 3-1 upset victory on Thursday afternoon.
Seeds for an upset were sown during a first half where Cottonwood (9-3) did an excellent job of pressuring Skyline (10-3-1) on offense and keeping the Eagles on their heels on defense.
The Colts nearly tacked on their first goal in the 26th minute when Karlee Paloukos swung a free kick inside the six-yard box. Skyline goalkeeper Anna Cassell came out to scoop up the ball but could not get her gloves around it. The ball bounced past Cassell and to the feet of senior forward Kiera Help.
With an empty net before her, Help had a perfect chance to score. But her shot went high and clanked off the upper part of the right post.
"It was really frustrating in the first half knowing that we could beat them, but we didn't capitalize on the mistakes they were making," Help said. "We couldn't take advantage and finish the goals and opportunities we had. The second half, luckily, we were able to follow through with our passes and (shots)."
The Colts broke the ice in the 45th minute when Paloukos took another free kick from 30 yards out and lobbed it over the three-man defensive wall. Cassell jumped high to push the ball over the crossbar, but it cleared her fingertips and dropped down behind her to make it 1-0.
"I've been taking free kicks a lot and I've really worked on putting it in the back corner," Paloukos said. "I just tried to think of it as a practice (shot) and put it over her head."15 comments on this story
Cottonwood extended that lead by a goal in the 52nd minute. Help beat a pair of Skyline defenders to a ball on the left flank. Once she latched onto it, she unleashed a right-footer in stride and rifled the ball into the net untouched.
But the Colts ended any threat of a Skyline comeback in the 75th minute. Katie Jones blasted a shot in from about 35 yards out to give her team its third goal.
The Colts will need a loss from the Eagles in one of its final two regular season games to claim the region title.