It was highly anticipated like a battle between two 5A-II state powers and geographical rivals should be, but after #2 Ironwood Ridge defeated #1 Mountain View, 4-2, in girls soccer, it turns out that the game didn't mean too much.
The win gave the IRHS Nighthawks the region championship for the third straight year. However, Ironwood Ridge coach Sean Watkins pointed out that the Nighthawks lost in the first round in both 2009 and 2010.
"The girls expected this," Watkins said. "It's the third year in a row we've won the region championship."
Outside of the region championship, it's not clear what last Tuesday's game actually impacted.
Mountain View coach Rick Ellis admitted before the game that he'd rather play the arch rivals earlier in the season instead of later.
Regardless of which team, probably Ironwood Ridge, gets the number one seed, the rewards seem paltry. Neither the number one nor number two seeds will get a first-round bye. Additionally, the Nighthawks and Mountain Lions will both be playing at a neutral (or road) field in the first round.
The energy and intensity levels of the two teams may not have matched recent Ridge-Mountain View battles, but the two teams courageously fought to a 1-1 tie in the first half.
Camie Barbera scored the game's first goal in the ninth minute on an assist from Kaitlyn Lopez for a 1-0 Nighthawks lead.
Laura Pimenta scored with less than two minutes left before halftime to tie it 1-1 for the Mountain Lions.
Early in the second half, in the 45th minute, Madi Kinzer scored on an assist from Barbera to give the Nighthawks a 2-1 lead.
"I expected to win," Barbera said. "I had confidence in us. But I was surprised at the difference."
Ellis was ejected after a card was given to the Mountain Lion bench over a disputed site to inboound the ball. The Mountain Lions had been carded earlier on another inbounds placement dispute. The most critical aspect is that Ellis will probably be ineligible to coach in the first round of the playoffs.
Kaitlyn Lopez and Liz Fritz added second-half goals to give the Nighthawks a 4-1 lead with slightly more than 24 minutes left.
Barbera finished with one goal and two assists.
"Camie (Barbera) is a handful for every team we've played," Watkins said.
"We played the way we know we can," said Barbera. "Mountain View is our rival."
Lopez added a goal and an assist in the game.
"Tonight, Kaitlyn Lopez showed why she's the class of the city," Watkins said.
On the home side, sophomore Justene Kesterson had the team's final goal, as she scored on an unassisted goal in the 59th minute.
"We could've done better," Kesterson said. "We still have state to play."
How do things look now for the Nighthawks after losing in the first round two years in a row?
"The demeanor of the team is a lot different," Watkins said. "Our core group is juniors. The class of our players is showing."
The saving grace for both highly seeded teams is that while neither will get to host a playoff game, the higher their seed, the lower the seed of the opponent.