EDWARDS — And that was everything Battle Mountain soccer wanted from its first-round playoff game against Denver South on Wednesday in Edwards.
The No. 4-seeded Huskies dropped three goals during the first 24 minutes of the first half against the visiting Rebels, deciding things early, on their way to a 6-0 win. That allowed Huskies coach David Cope to substitute freely to get everyone some playoff experience and to rest his starters. Battle Mountain also got the shutout, which gave Huskies keeper Mindy Vickers and the defense a school record of 12 in one season.
And, let’s face it, if the Huskies had been upset, then no Battle Mountain soccer team would ever have been seeded higher than 17th for state soccer tournaments for the next 10 years.
“It’s always a tough one,” Cope said. “It’s good for us to have five different goal-scorers. That’s always a Battle Mountain thing. I think we did some really good things in the first half. The second half was a little bit flat, but that’s OK.”
Battle Mountain will host No. 13 Valor Christian, victors over Pueblo West, on Saturday. Before the game, Cope had said that his team was not looking past Denver South and had “not looked at Valor Christian or Pueblo West, for that matter.”
That would be, tactfully put, a slight bending of the truth. The Huskies lost to Valor Christian, 3-0, in Highlands Ranch last year in the second round and wanted to see the Eagles again, especially in Edwards.
“I think it would be a great opportunity to play them again,” said junior Acacia Ortiz, who scored Battle Mountain’s first two goals on Wednesday. “The roles would kind of be reversed this time. It would be on our field in the second round. It would be great to come out with a win because we deserve to be considered a Valor in the state.”
Cope recanted on his previous statement and compared meeting the Eagles again to his boys squads running up repeatedly against Evergreen in the postseason from 2009-12.
“It required a lot of discipline on all of our parts, maybe mine especially, not to talk about it,” he said. “When the bracket comes out, that name looms large wherever it is. We have tremendous respect for them. They played a great game against us down there and I think these are the kind of match-ups you want — Evergreen. You want to measure yourself.”
There is no time yet for kickoff, but the Huskies want to play under the lights. Stay tuned.
OVER AND OUT
Ortiz has been more a play-maker, and a brilliant one at that with 18 assists, than a scorer, but the junior got two for the Huskies. She had the first two for Battle Mountain, striking in the seventh and 15th minutes. Ortiz’s second goal came after a beautiful build-up from Emily Cope to Ortiz to Logan Nash.
Denver South goalie Rose Lima topped that shot, but Nash fed Ortiz after an errant clear on the restart.
“It was even more fun to watch how we got multiple people with goals,” Ortiz said. “To have so many people have goals in a playoff game was incredible.”
And Ortiz has a good point here. Nash, the team’s leading scorer with 25 goals during the 15-game regular season, did not score on Wednesday. This is no criticism of Nash, but more of a testament to the Huskies offensive diversity. As Battle Mountain progresses through the tournament, multiple goal-scorers and even unlikely ones will be critical as opposing teams will likely key on Nash.
Cope struck a rocket during the 23rd, and no goalie was stopping that from going into the left corner. Molly Phannenstiel got into the act with 10 minutes left in the first half, and Julia Mills to Morgan Croke sent the Huskies to the locker room with a 5-0 cushion.
Taylor Denning scored in the second half. That’s important because the Huskies set a goal of winning halves as well as games.
And while the offensive pyrotechnics were going off, Vickers was writing her name into the Huskies record book with her 12th shutout of the season. She surpassed Christian Espinoza, who had 11 in the fall of 2012. That’s exactly the company that Vickers and everyone in a Huskies’ uniform would like to keep.
After all, Espinoza back-stopped Battle Mountain to a state title that fall, and she was in the stands on Wednesday. Just as Espinoza did with his defense, Vickers shares the mark with her defenders, Karely Duran, Megan Hogfeldt, Bridget Courtois, Jenai Denardo and Alexis Nibbelink, and fellow goalie Ali Teague. (Denardo did get a breather from her dual roles of soccer and track with A.J. Davies filling in for her on Wednesday. Had it been a close game, coach Cope said he would have inserted Denardo.)
“After the league title game, I asked Cope to look to the stats and see what the record was. We had tied it last game,” Vickers said. “I had been chasing it. To be honest, all credit goes to my defense. We support each other so much, and we cover for each other. That’s the cool thing about it. It’s not just me in the back. It’s every single player on the team.”
If there is such a thing as an unsung hero in this unit it is Hogfeldt. She is the only Battle Mountain player to have played every minute this season.
“It’s been a really good experience playing with every single player on the field. It’s nice to know we have a strong bench,” Hogfeldt said. “They’re just as good.”
“That’s a great thing,” Cope said of the shutout mark. “It’s not easy to shut out teams at any level. You look even at the 2012 state team, who had such a great run and had a shutout in the state final, but there were games where you have a slip-up and Rifle scores. You look at this team with the Eagle (Valley) goal (in the first game of the season), and this group took it upon themselves. ‘We have pride and leadership in the back.’ If you’re difficult to score on, you’re difficult to beat.”