GYPSUM — Battle Mountain soccer finished one title defense and begins another one Wednesday.
The Huskies clinched their fourth-consecutive 4A Western Slope title Thursday night with a 4-2 victory over Eagle Valley at Hot Stuff Stadium. Battle Mountain finishes the regular season with a 13-2 mark (11-1 in league) will try to defend its 4A state title won on Nov. 10, 2012, on a snowy pitch at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver.
“When we got on the bus today, I told the guys, ‘On November 11, 2012, if you’d have asked anyone what our record would be with nine senior starters (graduating) and with 16 seniors on the team, no one would have guessed 13-2,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “Nobody would have bet that on Oct. 17, 2013, we’d be going to win a league championship. These guys should be so proud of it. It’s an awesome. It’s an intensely gratifying experience.”
While it’s four-straight Slope crowns, eight in the last 10 years and the program’s 10th overall title, as is often the case, it’s not about history for the current edition of Huskies soccer. It’s about right now. For most on the roster, this is their first league championship as varsity players or as starters.
“It just means so much to me because I’ve watched our school do it three years in a row and this one’s mine,” said senior defender Ryan Wood, who was a backup for last season’s state team. “I worked for this one. I put in the effort. This one’s me and our team.”
The hoodie given to members of a league-title team means more when you played a major role.
“I’m excited for that big 2013 league champions sweatshirt,” chimed in Eli Stephens.
Robles and Diaz connect
There are lots of those stories on the list for Battle Mountain. Cope started ripping of names like Kevan Aubel, Tony Luevanos, Andrew Herrera and Pedro Hernandez, who all etched their name into Huskies soccer lore. But perhaps the best story Thursday night was Alexis Robles. As a junior last year, he was slated to get a call-up to the varsity for the state playoffs and then hurt his knee. He watched the run, but never played.
Against Eagle Valley, he assisted Roberto Diaz on Battle Mountain’s second goal, and scored the Huskies’ third, on an assist, naturally, from Diaz.
“We’ve been playing since we were 10,” Robles said. “We’re great friends. We take care of each other on the field. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”
Battle Mountain did what it had to do Thursday night, controlling the game’s tempo. In his third game up top, Logan Ruark produced again, generating a corner kick with a run and then bombing in a cross into the box that Diaz finished. In three games since the switch from midfield to striker, Ruark has been in on three goals. And, yes, Diaz is officially hot with five goals in four games.
Eagle Valley’s Aaron Ledezma halved Battle Mountain’s lead to 2-1 in the 29th minute, but the Huskies finished it with two in the second half, the last being Diaz to Hernandez. Devils’ senior Roberto Diaz scored in the waning moments.
Ortiz is one nine Eagle Valley seniors who were honored Thursday night. Trevor Borasio, Edwin Ledezma, Jose Gonzalez, Alan Caraveo, Jason Zamora, Cesar Fernandez, Fabian Venzor and Leo Borasio also took their curtain calls at halftime for the Devils.
“They are great kids, said Eagle Valley coach Bratzo Horruitiner, whose team finishes 4-9-2. “The guys have so much personality on and off the field. They will be missed. In practice, they encourage the kids. They guide the kids on the field. They are a big part of the team.”
Pick a number
The big question now is what seed will Battle Mountain get for the upcoming playoffs? Battle Mountain went 15-0 last year and drew No. 6, a large disappointment. In past years, when Western Slope teams got poor seeds, the talk was always, “We’ve got to show the state otherwise by winning playoff games.”
Well, the Huskies did that in 2012, and hope that the state’s voters recognize both last year’s and this year’s body of work to the tune of a combined 33-2 record.
“I think we fully deserve to be top eight in the state, and I think we maybe put together a resume that would allow us to host a state quarterfinal game (or a top-four seed), if we advance that far,” Cope said. “There’s never a guarantee that you do advance that far, but I think we do deserve to play at home until we advance to the neutral (site) games (in the semifinals). There’s nobody in the state that’s put up a resume that we should have to travel to their field. They may beat us, but they should beat us on our field.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.