COMMERCE CITY — Evergreen girls soccer coach Peter Jeans was so confident the Cougars would be leaving Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with the Class 4A state trophy in hand that he had state championship t-shirts printed and ready to be handed out Tuesday night.

“I just knew we had character, reliance, toughness, grit and discipline,” said Jeans after Evergreen’s 2-0 shutout victory over Lutheran. “I knew we were getting better every game and every practice. That gives you the believe that this team was going to show up in the big moment.”

It was clear after finishing as the 4A state runner-up in 2017, 2019 and 2021 that Jeans knew this time around would be different in the championship game.

“I was so surprised,” Evergreen sophomore Nadia Leunig said of Jeans breaking out the box of state championship t-shirts on the pitch after the shutout win. “On the bus after our semifinal game he said he was 0-3 in (girls soccer) state title finals. I was so surprised he made the effort, but super glad he did it. It shows a lot about him.”

Leunig scored her 18th goal of the season with 53 seconds left in the first half to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead going into halftime.

Jeans, who has coached the girls and boys soccer programs at Evergreen for more than a decade, was 0-4 coaching in girls and boys state championship games before the Cougars’ victory gave Evergreen its first girls soccer state title since 1997.

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

“Our coach (Jeans) helped boost us up every day,” said Evergreen senior Gretchen Lynch, who provided an insurance goal in the 73rd minute to seal the win. “He would always tell us that he thought we were getting better. Every practice and every game we were getting better. I think it was the confidence and believe in the players as well.”

Before even getting into the gauntlet of the 4A Jeffco League, the Cougars got off to a shaky 2-4 record this season. Evergreen got it going in conference play, but a 3-2 loss to Golden would actually prevent Evergreen from winning the league title.

D’Evelyn won the three-way tiebreaker and left the Cougars with the No. 14 seed entering the state tournament.

“We wanted to prove a point,” Lynch said of the Cougars’ postseason run to the title. “We were all hoping to win league, but after we unfortunately didn’t, we wanted to make a point by going to state (tournament) and winning it.”

D’Evelyn, Golden, Green Mountain and Evergreen — all 4A Jeffco teams — advanced to the 4A state quarterfinals, but only the Cougars were able to make it to the semifinals.

“We were confident that we were a good team and can go far,” Leunig said after the Cougars finished with five straight conference wins before heading into the postseason. “Once the other Jeffco teams got knocked out, we wanted to just keep pushing and keep fighting.”

Evergreen finished its final 14 games with a 12-1-1 record. Jeans credited the tough non-league schedule and battles in league play to get the Cougars ready to claim the program’s first state title in 27 years.

“You have really have tough games early to test you and tell you what your are deficient at,” Jeans said of the Cougars starting the season 2-4 with losses to The Classical Academy, Northfield, Windsor and Ralston Valley. “By trial and error the girls learned how to do things better. Those games prepared us to play a game like this at our best.”

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

The Cougars’ best Tuesday night gave the Jeffco League back-to-back 4A state titles. Dakota Ridge shutout Lutheran 2-0 in the 4A state championship game a year ago.

Jeans joins John Cassidy (Dakota Ridge), Paul Moline (D’Evelyn) and Dan Watkins (Wheat Ridge) as Jeffco League girls soccer coaches who have won 4A state titles over the past 15 years.

“It’s awesome. Those are the legends,” Jeans said of joining the elite company of state championship coaches. “I feel like I have always prepared my teams well, but there was always that sense of something missing.”

There isn’t anything missing now with the 2024 girls soccer state trophy heading up the hill to Evergreen.