FARMER’S KORNER — Battle Mountain much preferred the sequel.
Huskies soccer avenged its lone league loss of the season Tuesday night, taking care of Summit County, 3-1, in Farmer’s Korner and regaining the inside path to its fourth-consecutive 4A Slope title.
“It was a rematch, and it was for the league title,” Huskies senior Roberto Diaz said. “We’ve got a chance to win again.”
The path is now clear for Battle Mountain (10-2 overall, 9-1 in the 4A Slope). The Huskies must take care of business against Rifle on Thursday in Edwards and then go to Eagle Valley a week from Thursday and grind out three points. (The sound you just heard was Summit County, 6-1-1 in league, hopping on the Devils bandwagon. The Tigers will gladly trade their green and white for Eagle Valley black, white and red if the Devils can pull the upset.)
Focusing on the positive
“That’s something we looked at all season,” Huskies coach David Cope said of Summit’s 2-1 win in Edwards on Sept. 25. “Today, we looked at it on tape, not so much to point out things we did wrong, but to point out things we did well. In that game, we played well for long stretches of the game. I think that was important. It was important for our boys to see that it wasn’t a bad game the first time around. It was a good game against a good team, and we came up short. We wanted to change a couple of things and just see if we could do it better.”
In fairness, it was more than a “couple of things.” Battle Mountain retooled. Andrew Herrera moved into the back line. Uriel Lopez went to the midfield, pushing Logan Ruark on up to be more of an offensive force. And then there were the 50-50 balls. Summit was effective booting the ball over the top of the Huskies’ defense during the first meeting. Battle Mountain wanted to win every 50-50 ball.
“Our whole thing since we lost to Summit, was the 50-50 balls in the air, and not letting the ball touch the ground and getting a head on the ball,” senior Huskies midfielder Kevan Aubel said. “Cope’s been teaching us well, and we did well.”
Aubel and others did throw their bodies around well, angling for possession and, most of the time, Summit goalie Noah Glasco’s punts came right back into the Tigers’ end of the field at the feet of the Huskies.
Moving Ruark up also paid dividends offensively. The junior cut the ball along the Summit end line and fed it to Alexis Robles for a 1-0 Battle Mountain lead in the sixth minute.
While the Huskies did seemingly control the tempo of play, Summit managed the equalizer in a cruel twist. Battle Mountain junior defender Eli Stephens was the guy who whiffed on a through ball that resulted in Summit’s first goal in September’s game in Edwards. To put a cherry on top of that moment of irony, Summit scored an own goal off Stephens Tuesday night in the 30th minute. (The goal went to the Tigers’ Greg Spaulding, while Stephens was probably expecting to be struck by lightning on a clear night at that point.)
To Stephens’ and the rest of the defense’s credit, the Huskies hung with it, pitching a shutout the rest of the way. (Stephens also joins a list of very good Battle Mountain defenders who have allowed own goals, including Morgan Wallace, who remains one of the best center backs in Battle Mountain history, regardless of gender.)
“I thought Eli and Ryan Wood did a superb job, dealing with the long balls from the keeper, and the long balls from the back,” Cope said. “We were doing really well. The goal was just unfortunate. Those things happen all over the world every day. The question about character is how you bounce back from it. Once again, we saw with this group, nobody blamed anybody. Nobody got frustrated. Everyone stayed on the task. The group is incredibly tough mentally. That’s our strongest asset going forward, besides maybe No. 14.”
Diaz an asset to the team
No. 14 is Diaz, and he came up big in the second half. Twice, the Huskies bench felt it had a player pulled down in the Summit box, but did not get the call. Instead, the Huskies got a corner, and Uriel Lopez served it perfectly to Diaz for the header and a 2-1 advantage.
As the game entered the final 20 minutes, Diaz reprised his center-back role from the 2012 state playoffs, moving back on defense. Meanwhile, the Huskies weren’t done. Robles got pulled down just outside the box. Brandon Osorio wove the free kick past the Summit defense and Glasco and the Huskies headed home with three points.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and email@example.com.