EDWARDS — When Battle Mountain girls soccer gathered in its traditional spot in the hallway after its 2-0 win in Edwards over Mullen on Friday, there really wasn’t a loud whoop or a raucous celebration.
Coaches and players spoke and then the Huskies, with a collective quiet confidence, turned their attention to today’s game at Glenwood Springs.
Battle Mountain’s faithful, on the other hand, are flying high. Goals by Morgan Croke and Logan Nash in the first half and a stout defense in the second lifted the Huskies to a win which their fans hope will be a message to the Front Range, particularly for seeding purposes come playoff time. Battle Mountain girls soccer can play with anyone.
“We want to win every game we play, and we don’t concern ourselves with seed because I don’t know if anyone in the Front Range cares,” Huskies coach David Cope joked. “But it does send a message. We haven’t allowed many goals up here, and that says a lot. We can defend well. I think it says a lot that our kids can compete physically with kids on the Front Range because we’re an athletic team. We have big respect for the Mullen team because we know what they’ve done in the playoffs.”
Seeding jokes aside, Friday’s game had a playoff atmosphere in the stands and similar physical feel on the pitch. Mullen, which plays in the 5A Centennial League during the regular season before dropping down to 4A for the playoffs, brought everything it could to bear to erase the Huskies’ 2-0 lead during the second half.
“It was 2-0, and they came back stronger and they were pressuring us,” center back Karely Duran said. “It was a little bit harder on the defense because you have so much pressure on. There are 10 players right on you. But we stuck together, and we dug it out. We played as a unit.”
And while Battle Mountain (9-0) did get a goal from Croke in the ninth minute, Huskies keeper Mindy Vickers made a big save on a shot from Mullen’s Madi Johnson minutes earlier. The senior keeper has many shutouts in her career, but this one was her best to date.
“She’s really solid,” Duran said. “We can trust her in the back.”
The Huskies had a few offensive chances in the second half, including a breakaway by Nash. She was met by the Mustangs’ keeper in a clean collision — simply two opponents going for the ball — which put Battle Mountain’s collective heart in its throat. Nash, who missed all of last season with an ACL injury, got checked out and returned to the game. Cope said afterward that the Huskies’ leading scorer just had the wind knocked out of her.
It was just the beginning of the physical play in the final 40 minutes. Mullen drew four yellow cards and the Mustangs’ Claire Keil drew a red during the final 15 minutes. It did seem like “Beat the Heck Out of Emily Cope Day” as the sophomore was dropped to the pitch often. She wasn’t the only one. Acacia Ortiz and Bridgett Courtois also took Mullen’s best shot and emerged unscathed.
Physical play is nothing new, but Battle Mountain’s reputation — boys or girls — is generally one of being a skilled team that can’t handle the rough stuff. Friday night may have dispelled that notion.
“I think the biggest part that was a win was that we played as a team, said Jenai Denardo, another defensive stalwart for Battle Mountain. “We weren’t just playing for ourselves. I think that was what was really fun about it.”
Battle Mountain does not have long to nurse it bruises. The Huskies are at Glenwood Springs today at 11 a.m. The Demons are 5-1, having won five straight, and any game a Stubler Field is always a challenge for the Huskies.
“It’s a difficult game. A lot of them have never played at Glenwood,” David Cope said. “So there’s a lot of players who haven’t played on that field. It’s a big game tomorrow. It’s a big league game. It’s between the two divisions. Because of the record we’ve put up, every game’s a big game. It the nice luxury of raised expectations.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and@ cfreud.