In our last episode of Battle Mountain soccer, the Huskies were dancing around in the snow in Denver with the state-title trophy, capping the most Hollywood-like season in the program’s history.
Of many challenges facing Huskies soccer is how to deal with the challenge of being the defending state champions, even though many of those who helped win the school’s sixth non-skiing state crown are now at college.
“I think the group wants to take some lessons from it without being overburdened by it,” said Huskies coach David Cope, who is back for his 21st season.
Battle Mountain will wear a star on its uniform badges, signifying the state title, adopting a tradition from professional teams and international sides from around the world. However, the Huskies know that everyone on their slate from the opener at home Saturday at Montrose at 11 a.m. to the regular-season finale at Eagle Valley will be giving their best against the defending state champs.
“Nobody knows who they’re playing after Battle Mountain,” Cope said. “Everyone’s looking at their schedules and knows what date they’re playing Battle Mountain. We’re going to get every team’s best game. We have to behave and act like that’s the case. We have to warm up and carry ourselves like state champions, whoever’s playing and wearing that shirt with a star on it. That says a lot.”
New names in new places is a theme for the Huskies. Donnie Leavitt has the lead in the goalie battle in camp over Jack Skidmore and will start Saturday’s game. Battle Mountain is used to a rock in goal.
What is funny is that two years ago, having lost three-year starter Clint Hervert, Cope was worried about starting a newbie in the position. That was Christian Espinoza, and that turned out pretty well.
Past results don’t guarantee future success, but it’s for what the team hopes.
Cope expects Ryan Wood to anchor the back line. Wood has impressed in camp with his leadership skills. As with a lot of positions at this point, there is competition for spots.
Eli Stephens and Ethan Pence are competing for the other center back position. At outside back, it’s three guys for two spots in Tony Luevano, Andrew Herrrera and Logan Ruark. (And, yes, the last is former goalie Josh Ruark’s younger brother.)
It is a pretty safe bet — put it in concrete — that Roberto Diaz is a fixture at center midfield. He’s a returning all-state honoree. From there, returners Brandon Osorio and Kevan Aubel are duking it out with sophomore Uriel Lopez in another three-for-two battle.
Up top, there is ton of potential, which is one of the scariest words in high school sports. Battle Mountain has three guys from last year’s JV — Alexis Robles, Pedro Hernandez and Aaron Milligan — who all lit it up at that level. There’s also freshman Jesus Romero. If this quartet can find a way to do it at the varsity, the Huskies could be potent.
Cope also said that the trio of Zach Trombetta, Eric Gonzalez and Hugo Soto are providing some serious senior leadership. (And since we made the family tie with Ruark, Gonzalez is also of a major Huskies soccer family. He’s the younger brother of Evie, Joel, David and Daniel Gonzalez.)
Battle Mountain is missing Alex Trujillo, an integral part of the team’s state run last year. He went down with a knee injury during the summer and will not be able to play this season.
“You’d love to see how Alex’s senior year would have played out,” Cope said. “He’s been at every training session. He wants to play a role on this team. He is such a great kid, a great student and a great person. Obviously he’s a really-talented soccer player.”
The schedule starts with a bang. Not only does Battle Mountain open with Montrose, but Steamboat Springs comes to town on Tuesday. Within the Slope, Steamboat and Summit County will likely lay obstacles to Battle Mountain’s defense of its league title. And we are historically-obligated to mention Glenwood Springs as well.
“Every season, our goal is to be one of the best in the Western Slope,” Cope said. “In that sense, this season is no different than others.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.