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Soccer: No. 1 Denmark shuts out Mountain View to earn first playoff win
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Denmark sophomore Maddie Stoddard, right, fights past Mountain View's Kirsten Jennings Tuesday during the Danes' 5-0 win in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs. - photo by David Roberts

Jen Barr was sure to give her goalie a big hug Tuesday.

Denmark's girls soccer team had all but wrapped up its first-round playoff win against Mountain View when the Danes' coach substituted in freshman Grace Stair for starting goalkeeper Kiersten Bell. 

And when Barr greeted Bell on the touch line, she did so with the memory of last year's first-round loss against Norcross, when Denmark let a late lead slip away after a pair of unlucky goals. 

"It was heartbreaking," Barr said. "Literally, it happened and we all just kind of looked at each other like, 'Really? Is this how it's going to end?' So tonight was a big monkey off our back."

Denmark's 5-0 win against Mountain View bore little resemblance to last season's playoff debut, as the Danes piled up the shots early and often, and Bell collected her 15th clean sheet of the season. The win is Denmark's first playoff victory in program history.

"She did great," Barr said. "That's why when I pulled her off I gave her a big hug, because I wanted to give our freshman goalkeeper some time. But that was a big emotional hug for KB tonight."

Elise Sturm logged the first of 18 first-half shots inside the opening minute, and at the 27:45 mark, Ariana Traylor boomed a shot from 25 yards out that sailed just high of the crossbar to put Mountain View's defense on notice. 

Minutes later, left back Chloe Eastes stole possession around midfield and found forward Jordyn Crosby on Mountain View's doorstep, where she let off a close-range shot that was knocked down and saved by goalie Bella Grace Dunn. 

Crosby didn't have to wait long for another opportunity, as she cashed in on an assist from Maddie Stoddard two minutes later to open the scoring. Traylor doubled the lead 68 seconds later, then Hannah McLaughlin scored off an assist from Christina Davenport with 13:58 until halftime to make it 3-0.

"I was really proud of Ariana Traylor," Barr said. "She had that goal, but she's the one who took the shot early on to get us going. Of course, Maddie got after it and Jordyn got after it and Hannah McLaughlin scored. So, it was a good night."

Stoddard added a goal of her own in the second half, when she took a pass from Crosby and tight-roped the end line before sneaking a goal past Dunn. Denmark's final score came on a beautiful strike from McLaughlin, who drifted to her left around the 15-yard line and unleashed a missile that screamed past a diving Dunn and into the net. 

In all, Denmark took 35 shots against the Bears, including a chance early in the second half by Davenport that narrowly missed the goal.

"She always overlaps, but it was great to see her take a shot," Barr said. "She said, 'I'm going to score tonight.' Well, take a shot."

Denmark's defense was just as good as its offense, led by strong play from Davenport, center back Elise Nystrom and holding midfielder Sydni Whitehead.

"She's phenomenal," Barr said of Whitehead. "She shuts a lot of traffic down and dispossesses. We were expecting them to really overload us tonight. They played a 3-5-2 in the first half, then they came out in a 4-3-3 in the second half, but I told the girls, 'If he plays a 3-5-2, their back line, let's eat them up.' 

Denmark [18-0], which is No. 4 in the latest United Soccer Coaches poll, will host a familiar opponent in Parkview on Monday in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs. The Danes beat Parkview 2-0 on April 7.

"Well, they've seen us but we've seen them," Barr said. "I scouted them before the break, so I know their personnel and I know they have that really fast, physical girl up top, so we're just going to work again in practice to shut her down. We've got to come out and we've got to get after it."