EDWARDS — Palisade girls soccer entered Thursday’s game against Battle Mountain unscored upon and undefeated with a 7-0 record.
The Huskies took care of both of those zeros, pounding Palisade, 4-0, in Edwards. While Battle Mountain’s season wasn’t exactly on the rocks after a dispiriting 3-0 loss at Glenwood Springs on Saturday, Thursday’s match was the response to adversity for which its fans had hoped.
“Glenwood, we just tried to forget about,” Huskies co-captain and defender Bridgett Courtois said. “We knew one game wouldn’t define our season. We knew that we were really good and we had to prove it again.”
The Huskies (10-1) proved it emphatically. Logan Nash scored the first goal the Bulldogs had allowed all season during the seventh minute on her way to a hat trick. Acacia Ortiz finished it with a rocket. In between, the Huskies, ranked No. 10 in the CHSAA poll, possessed the ball with aplomb and a win against No. 9 Palisade was never in doubt.
“We had to look at what we could do better,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “Also, we had to have the mentality that that wasn’t some sort of judgment on who we are as a team. I think Bridget Courtois said it best.”
Ironically, Courtois had already mentioned it before Cope did during postgame. Playing at Glenwood’s Stubler Field, Courtois correctly pointed out, takes away what generations of Battle Mountain soccer teams, regardless of season or gender, do best — pass on the ground and play wide. Stubler has patchy grass and is an football field when it comes to width.
“We were able to play how we play,” Courtois said of Thursday’s game against Palisade.
Old faces and new
Battle Mountain came out roaring as Nash and Molly Phannenstiel played a little give-and-go. Nash sent Phannenstiel down to the end line on the left side. Phannenstiel cut along the line and sent it back to Nash for the finish. Battle Mountain went down the right side for its second in the 19th with Morgan Croke feeding Nash.
In the meantime, the Huskies jiggered the lineup with the return of Alexis Nibbelink. She became the holding midfielder, which allowed Emily Cope and Ortiz to go forward a bit more. That also put Phannenstiel in the role of striker.
“Alexis Nibbelink had an injury and was a bit limited,” Cope said. “She just kept working methodically to get herself back in the lineup. For her to step in during our 11th game and get her starting job her senior year, that’s great.”
And Phannenstiel ended up with two assists because she had the helper on Nash’s hat-trick goal, so the tinkering paid off.
“I think it was nice to be back on turf, back where we know how to play wide,” Nash said of her offensive outburst. “Our passes were great.”
Ortiz finished it with a Heivan Garcia-like boot — Garcia was on hand for Thursday’s game.
“That shot by Acacia was a pile-driver,” Cope said.
The Huskies certainly hope to see Palisade again. Battle Mountain has clinched the No. 1 seed out of the Slope’s Eastern Division and hosts the West’s second seed in the league semifinals at the end of the month. Glenwood and Palisade will likely decide that on Thursday at Stubler in their second meeting of the season. The Bulldogs won the first, 1-0, in Peach Valley in the season opener.
Battle Mountain does not play again until April 24 when it heads to Coal Ridge to face the Titans, ranked fourth in 3A. The Titans beat the Huskies, 2-1, last year in Edwards in a game that seemed at the time to be a crucial blow to Battle Mountain’s playoff hopes. The Huskies all but had to run the table in the league playoffs — against Palisade and Glenwood Springs — to make the state tournament, and they did.
“Coal Ridge was a very difficult loss for us to swallow,” Cope said. “It was a game we let slip away, a game I made a coaching mistake in, a game where the girls maybe didn’t give the opponent the respect they deserved, and we did a lot of soul-searching after that game last year. In the end, it was good for us. But as soon as the schedule came out this year, I looked at the Coal Ridge game. It’s a huge game for us. It’s great for us to have a huge game coming back.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.