BASALT - Corey Gera was being pushed around. The Glenwood Springs soccer player decided to push right back.
Gera went on the attack in the waning minutes of Thursday's tight non-conference bout with Basalt. The sophomore scored three times in the final 16 minutes to lead the 4A Demons to a 3-1 victory over the 3A Longhorns.
"We had three games this week, so we were exhausted," Gera said. "But we definitely realized that we needed to step up [down the stretch]. ... All the teams we play against [in the playoffs] are going to be this physical, if not more."
"There was desire to win, but they also got pissed," added Glenwood head coach Bryan Stoltzfus. "Some teams lose their heads, but when they're pissed they play hard."
Gera broke the deadlock in the 64th minute, when she chased down a through-ball up the far side and fired a shot past Basalt goalkeeper Maggie Fitzpatrick.
The goal came mere minutes after one of the Longhorns' top defenders, senior Alexa Aitken, was knocked out of the game with an apparent knee injury.
"It's your biggest fear, to have a knee injury in a non-consequential game," Basalt head coach Makenzie Eshelman said. "We are building for the playoffs, so we were going for it. We weren't going to shy away."
Ginevra Moore momentarily squared the game with a quick strike little more than 15 seconds after Gera's goal.
It was clear Glenwood (14-1) had all the momentum, however.
"I think they all panicked [after the injury]," Eshelman said. "They stopped focusing on the task at hand."
The Demons took advantage. They routinely flooded the Longhorns' zone, and generated scores of open looks - two of which hit the crossbar and post. The relentless pressure produced two goals down the stretch.
Gera gained a step on her defender on a run up the far side in the 76th minute, then tapped home a perfect cross with her left foot to put her team ahead for good.
She added some insurance in stoppage time, lofting a shot from about 20 yards out that clipped the net just inside the near post.
"She's been doing this all season," Stoltzfus said. "We couldn't ask for a better game to get ready for playoffs."
Eshelman, whose team finished the regular season at 10-2-3 and second in 3A Region 4 (Coal Ridge clinched the conference title with a win over Vail Mountain School in other action Thursday), echoed that sentiment.
"This is what you want, you want good competition. Even if you lose, that's OK. You can learn from it," the coach said. "This is what the playoffs are going to be like.
"This is a good building block. ... We'll bounce back."