Around the Mountain Conference
Published May 25, 2023
Written & Photo By: Andrew Mosier / WPSL Correspondent

‘A higher standard.’

It is a common phrase around the Colorado Rapids Women team in 2023.

A year ago, the Rapids Women struggled to gel, playing under a new coach and a demanding new possession-oriented system, starting the season 0-1-1. The Rapids Women would go on to repeat as Mountain Conference champions and win the Central Region to advance to the WPSL championship match before losing 3-1 to four-time WPSL champions, California Storm.

This year the Rapids Women are 2-0-0 after comprehensive 3-1 and 5-0 home wins to open Rockies Division play.

“We know our style. We know what we can do,” Hanna Gallegos, Rapids center-back, said.  “We are holding ourselves to a much higher standard than we did last year.”

Gallegos (University of Denver), who returns for a second season as captain of the team, was a WPSL All-Mountain Conference defender in 2022.

The Rapids Women opened Rockies Division play with a 3-1 win over Colorado Pride Friday night at Regis University in the Central Region’s Match of the Week followed by a 5-0 win over Broomfield Blast Sunday.

“I’m happy with the way things have come together so far,” Sebastian Giraldo, Rapids head coach, said. “We’re still getting everyone intergraded back into the system. With so many returning players, it’s coming together more quickly than it did last year. It is just a matter of getting everyone used to playing together.”

Camryn MacMillan led the Rapids Women with two quick goals against the Colorado Springs-based Pride under a thick haze caused by forest fires on Friday. Alicia Glover capped the scoring for the Rapids Women moments before the final whistle.

MacMillan (University of Denver) put the Rapids Women in the lead in the eighth minute thanks to the Rapids Women’s stifling midfield pressure and found herself inside the Pride penalty area with only the goalkeeper to beat. She doubled the lead in the 15’ minute by pouncing on a rebound from a shot from distance from inside the six-yard box.

Sydney Burskey (University of Northern Iowa) pulled the Pride a goal back in the 56’ minute when the Rapids Women were caught in transition. Her right-footed blast from the top of the penalty area bent in the near post.

Looking to equalize, Pride began throwing numbers forward with greater abandon as the game progressed. Unable to capitalize on several opportunities, Glover (University of Wyoming) finished a quick counterattack uncontested to secure the season-opening win for the Rapids Women.

On Sunday, Glover picked up where she left off putting the Rapids Women up in the 12’ minute finishing to the far post off a low-driven cross from Jordan Crocket (University of Denver) for her second on the season.

Thanks to Broomfield’s disciplined defending and some brilliant goalkeeping by Brooklynn Kirkpatrick (Youngstown State University) in the first half and Dylan Drennan (University of Northern Colorado) in the second, the Rapids Women were unable to break through until Amy Smith nodded home a rebound off shot Marianna Annest lobbed off the crossbar for her first of four on the night.

“Amy is a special talent,” Giraldo said. “She was developed through our youth system. She is an absolute national talent. Her potential is incredible.”

Smith’s second goal came a minute before the end of regulation, turning on a ball played into her from the midfield and striking the ball low on goal from the top of the penalty area. The shot took a small deflection off a defender just inside the far post.

“I missed a couple in the beginning and got mad,” said Smith (Colorado Rapids Youth), who committed to play at Louisiana State University this year. “I started shooting when I got the ball. It was the team. They got me the ball in great spots. I just finished the job. They did all the work.

Smith got her third two minutes later in added time outjumping her defender at the far post to head home an Annest (University of Alabama) corner kick. Her fourth on the night came just a minute after that, poking in a loose ball in front of the goal.

“It’s a good start,” Giraldo said. “But still have a long way to go.”

The Rapids Women travel to face Boulder County United Thursday, May 25, and host Indios Denver FC Sunday, June 4. The Rapids Women failed to beat Indios last season – drawing both games.

Around the Mountain Conference

Wasatch Division

The Utah Avalanche and La Roca FC were both winners in the two opening weekend Wasatch Division matches.

Katie Howes (University of Portland) scored in the 82’ minute off a left-footed blast off the dribble from the right channel to give La Roca FC 1-0 win over league debutants, Griffins FC.

Across town, Collette Smith scored moments after the start of the second half, followed by Seven Castain (Texas Christian University) in the 62’ minute to give the 2022 Wasatch Division champions, Utah Avalanche, a 2-0 win over the Utah Surf.