GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Battle Mountain girls soccer remains the queen of the 4A Western Slope after the Huskies defeated Steamboat Springs, 3-0, in Thursday’s league championship game at Gates Soccer Park in Glenwood Springs.
With the loss, Steamboat Springs was eliminated from receiving one the Slope region’s automatic berths to the state playoffs. Battle Mountain, Montrose, Palisade and Durango have clinched those spots. The Sailors (8-6) can still grab one of eight at-large bids to be handed out when CHSAA issues the bracket on Sunday. A win over 5A Fruita in Steamboat tonight at 6 would help that cause.
It’s Battle Mountain’s fourth girls’ Slope title, having won previously in 2007, 2008 and 2013. Huskies soccer also logged its fourth double with boys’ and girls’ championships in the same academic year.
And the Huskies have never beaten their archrivals, the Sailors, three times in one season, be it fall or spring.
“Tidy. We beat them, 5-0, 4-0, and 3-0. I don’t want to play them four more times,” joked Huskies coach David Cope, who is close friends with Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann. “It’s special. The Battle Mountain teams that do well win the league title. If you don’t win the league, it’s hard to advance in the playoffs. What a great setting. (Assistant coach) Allie (O’Neill) and I were glad to be coaching, but what would we give to play on a night like tonight and a setting like this?”
With Mount Sopris in view on a pleasant spring night, Battle Mountain got off to a quick start as Acacia Ortiz sprang Logan Nash for a breakaway in the third minute.
And that put crimp in Steamboat’s strategy.
“We were hoping to keep it a cleaner slate longer,” Bohlmann said. “That changed when we went down 1-0 early. It’s difficult to chase games and we didn’t do that (in the first half).”
A few minutes later, Battle Mountain’s Emily Cope landed hard on her left hip in a collision with Steamboat’s Carolyn Walters. Cope did not return to the game, while Walters received a yellow card, but it was clear that there was no malicious intent.
Nash gave the Huskies some breathing room in the 30th with a rocket from well outside the box. The shot found the left corner for a 2-0-halftime lead. And that was a joy for the junior, who had to watch last year’s title game from the sidelines as she was nursing an ACL injury.
“I don’t know. I saw it and it was there,” Nash said. “It definitely feels good to be part of the team, playing-wise.”
Steamboat made Battle Mountain sweat in the second half, throwing everyone forward.
Yet, as has been the case this season, the defense of Bridgett Courtois, Karely Duran, Megan Hogfeldt and Jenai DeNardo and goalie Mindy Vickers rose to the occasion. During that stretch, David Cope instructed that back line to play higher to catch the Sailors in an offside trap.
While the Huskies didn’t get the offside whistle, that strategy seemed to get the Huskies off their heels and moving forward. Ortiz to Melissa Lopez in the 61st finished it. Lopez has a pretty nice history at Gates. She had the goal last year here in a 1-0 championship win over Palisade.
At that point, Bohlmann started subbing freely to rest his players for today’s Fruita game, and the Huskies started celebrating.
“It feels pretty good,” Vickers said. “We’ve definitely been training and focusing to win this game. We’ve had small-side games and other drills, just taking it a few minutes at a time in practice, so that when the game comes we’re good.”
Cue the ‘Jeopardy’ music
The Huskies finish the regular season with a 14-1 mark. Battle Mountain will bring to the seeding process a 2-0 victory over Mullen, a 1-0 decision against Silver Creek of the Northern League and a 4-2 victory over Coal Ridge, a top-flight 3A team.
What seed number that produces would be the $64,000 question. Even in the best of seasons, the seeding committee has not been kind to the Huskies. The boys have never been higher than fifth, and that was 2005, a 13-2 regular season. Ironically, the 15-0 boys who ended winning the state title in 2012 entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed.
The ladies of Battle Mountain went 15-0 in 2008 and ended up with No. 9. Greeley West upset those Huskies in a first-round shocker. (For the record, the highest the Huskies girls have been seeded was No. 6 in 2007.) The 2008 experience made Cope change the Huskies’ schedule to include Front Range opponents like Mullen and Silver Creek.
The Huskies are sitting in the fourth spot of the final 4A CHSAA poll. While that is not binding, Battle Mountain would fall on its collective knees in happiness if it drew that number on Sunday. That would likely be the best-case scenario with home games in Edwards for the first three rounds before the tournament goes to a neutral site for the final two rounds.
“I think there isn’t an unblemished team in the bracket,” Cope said. “Every team has had its slip-ups. I think you need to look at our body of work during the last two years. I think we’re in the highest echelon. Will that happen? It’s up to the powers that be. We beat a good team tonight. We beat a good team in Palisade. We beat Silver Creek. We’re excited to be here at this stage.”
While it’s not official, Battle Mountain should be home for the first round on Wednesday.