COMMERCE CITY – Normally a one-goal lead at halftime can a boost a team’s confidence when it’s playing for a state championship.

But Dakota Ridge didn’t feel like they earned the lead. A misplayed ball resulted in an own-goal to get the Eagles on the scoreboard but it was a header from Bailey Pignatore, her 18th goal of the season, that truly sealed the 2-0 win over Lutheran in the Class 4A girls soccer title game.

“It was nice that we got the second goal because we didn’t want to have it gifted,” coach John Cassidy said. “[Lutheran] played great. Their plan for us was fantastic and sometimes it doesn’t go in.”

Credit Lutheran’s shots not finding the net to Eagles keeper Kassidy Spencer. She turned away everything on one of the first real summer-esque nights at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

In just her second year minding the net, she didn’t have to be perfect for the Eagles (18-1 overall) to claim their first state title since 2003. But she way anyway.

“She’s a great goalie,” Cassidy emphasized.

But it really came down to her just minding the net and doing her job for her team. They worked to get her the lead and all she had to do was play at the high level she had been playing at all season.

“This is only my second year playing goalie,” she said. “I don’t even know how I’m here right now. It feels so good. I felt really nervous because with [them taking] so many shots, it’s bound for one of them to go in. But I just had it on my defense to help me out there.”

And then the offense added a boost from Pignatore. As a senior, she shared the same experience as everyone in her class across the state in that COVID cost them a freshman season. But injuries have plagued Pignatore since then and 2022-23 was her first full season playing soccer.

It was all it was cracked up to be.

“I have to thank my fiends and my teammates,” Pignatore said. “I’ve been waiting for four years for this and I couldn’t have expected a better experience.”

The same feeling can be had to the entire Dakota Ridge roster.

The team’s record for the last two seasons was a combined 8-17. This season, there were early indications that this tam was capable of accomplishing so much more.

It happened as early as February when Cassidy saw the names on his roster and knew that they were among the best athletes that Dakota Ridge had to offer.

“From the moment they registered before the season started, I knew I had the best players in the school,” he said. “After practice, I came home and I said that this was a special team. They proved it every step of the way.”

When the final buzzer sounded, they were awarded the championship hardware that goes with that proof. Cassidy stressed that without support from the principal and the athletic director (Matt Heckel), this championship doesn’t happen.

He also pointed out the contribution of junior Jordan Whiteaker, who played a key role in encouraging some of the best athletes in the school to go out for the team.

“She said, ‘Coach, I want to win,'” Cassidy said. “I told her to go get them.”

She went and got them and they delivered in the biggest of ways.

(Dan Mohrmann/