COMMERCE CITY — Either way, Tuesday night was the ultimate underdog story during the Class 4A girls soccer championship. It’s unlikely anyone outside their respective school communities thought No. 12 Lutheran and No. 14 Evergreen would be battling in the classification’s final game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

The match took on that tenor, too, with each team playing with nothing to lose, throwing long, probing passes to spring the attack, attempting epic shots and scrapping for possession at midfield.

So, it makes sense that a dramatic goal would make all the difference.

Evergreen sophomore Nadia Leunig took the ball at the top of the penalty box, swung around 180 degrees, and chopped a looping goal into the top-right corner with 53 seconds left in the first half for the difference-making score in the Cougars’ 2-0 victory.

“It was a weight off our back, but it also was ‘this is where it starts,’ because you could see that it lit a fire under them,” Leunig said. “The whole half, we were slugging through it. Just trying to get chance after chance and nothing was really clicking. Once it connected, it was a good buffer, but we still needed to attack in the second half.”

The dramatics certainly didn’t cease after halftime, with each team hitting the post once. Several set pieces didn’t quite connect. But it Gretchen Lynch who powered through a picture-perfect cross and gave the Cougars the insurance they needed.

From there, Lutheran put a couple more long-shot chances on net, but Evergreen hung on.

It’s the third title for the Cougars and their first since 1997. It also comes on the back of the girls lacrosse program’s walk-off win over Mead last Friday.

“It’s great to see all this support from Evergreen, especially knowing that lacrosse just won a championship,” Leunig said. “We can do it, too.”

For coach Peter Jeans, who has been with the school since 2009 between coaching the girls and boys teams, the largest difference maker was winning air balls, something his defense did particularly well.

He also credited the mental toughness of the team, which materialized in a number of ways.

“We work a lot on patterns of play,” Jeans said. “The other big thing is team culture and spirit. We preach that you need grittiness, you need discipline, you need togetherness, you need players to play their roles and for people to play really smart. You could see all of that today.”

The championship caps an unlikely run through the playoffs that was nearly cut down before it started, with the Cougars escaping the first round with a 3-2 win over No. 19 Erie. They followed that up by eking out a 2-1 win over No. 3 Windsor. The first explosive win came in the quarterfinals when they housed No. 27 Air Academy 6-0, then they dismissed another top opponent with a 3-2 win against No. 2 Northfield.

“The hardest one to win is that last one,” Jeans said. “So, for them to win the last one shows how far they’ve come.”

(Dan Mohrmann/