EVERGREEN — There was a storm brewing Tuesday night at Evergreen High School.

Evergreen dominated the first half against Air Academy in the Class 4A girls soccer state quarterfinal, but held just a 1-0 lead at halftime.

“We were kind of freaking out at halftime because it was only 1-0,” Evergreen sophomore Nadia Leunig admitted. “We knew we could attack and press this team (Air Academy). Once we got that second goal the momentum shifted and we went full gas.”

The No. 14-seeded Cougars were tenacious in the opening 14 minutes of the second half pouring in four goals on the way to an impressive 6-0 victory. The win over the No. 27-seeded Kadets advanced Evergreen (12-5-1 record) into the semifinals slated for Thursday, May 16, at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

“I thought we were the better team. We took it to (Air Academy) all game,” Evergreen coach Peter Jeans said. “During that first 15 minutes of the second half we were being clinical. Really good finishes, and obviously once you start to put a team down you have to bury them. Teams can get back into games and you can lose the game.”

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

Evergreen senior Mary Cox gave the Cougars the 1-0 lead at halftime flicking the ball past Air Academy goalie Aliya Vidro in the 38th minute. Leunig took over early in the second half with back-to-back goals in the 42nd and 49th minutes to push the lead to 3-0.

Senior Mallory Elliington and sophomore Gianna Weiner extended the lead to 5-0 after scoring a minute apart in the 53rd and 54th minutes.

With the comfortable lead midway through the second half, Jeans was able to empty his bench and things continued to click for the Cougars.

“I played the entire team and my second group came in and played awesome,” Jeans said. “They scored a goal. They were ready to play and played awesome.”

Sophomore Cameron Wedding put in the final Evergreen goal in the 71st minute.

It was a breeze of the postseason victory after the Cougars took 1-goal wins over No. 19 Erie and No. 3 Windsor to start the playoffs. Air Academy (7-6-3) was a Cinderella team having taken out No. 6 The Classical Academy and No. 22 Ponderosa on the road last week.

“We just had to keep our heads down and treat them (Air Academy) like a high seed like Windsor or Erie,” said Leunig of facing the lowest seed remaining in the quarterfinals.

Evergreen now fits the bill as the underdog. The Cougars will face No. 2 Northfield on Thursday. The other semifinal will feature No. 12 Lutheran and No. 9 Denver North.

“I feel like we’ve had a fairly tough set of games, but we played a tough set of games in the regular season too,” said Jeans of his Cougars that have a 8-0-1 record in their last nine games. “We are prepared for it. I feel like we are ready.”

The Cougars were the lone 4A Jeffco team to advance to the semifinals. D’Evelyn, Golden and Green Mountain all suffered 1-goal losses in their quarterfinal games Tuesday night in what could have shaped up as all-Jeffco semifinals.

“It think it’s good that we might be the only (4A) Jeffco team left standing,” Leunig said. “It will give us a confidence boost. I also like playing new teams. Playing the same teams from our league can get boring.”

This will be the second trip to the semifinals in four years for the Cougars. Evergreen advanced to the 4A title game in 2021, but lost to Holy Family. The Cougars lost in the quarterfinals to Northfield in 2022 and Dakota Ridge in 2023.

Interestingly, Northfield and Dakota Ridge both went on to win the state championship after defeating Evergreen.

“This time we are like, ‘Let’s see what we’ve got.’ We are in the semis and have nothing to lose at this point,” Leunig said.