Battle Mountain soccer eliminated from playoffs after 4-0 loss to Lewis-Palmer
The Huskies surrendered three first-half goals against Lewis-Palmer as they were eliminated from the playoffs in the round of 8 on Saturday in Edwards, falling 4-0 to the Rangers.
“The first half was a battle,” senior captain Louis Castillo said after an emotional end to his four-year varsity career. “We had our chances and we just couldn’t capitalize, and they did. That’s how the game of soccer is — if you don’t capitalize on opportunities, you aren’t going to win.”
The Rangers scored three minutes into the game before the Huskies defense could settle in. Seniors Braulio Aguayo, Kevin Chavez, Joey Leonardo and co. helped the Huskies to scoring opportunities, including a header off the crossbar by Joseph Fernandez, but the Huskies couldn’t find the equalizer deep into the first half. The Rangers added another goal with about five minutes left in the half, and another with two minutes left.
“As a coach, you hope to do a better job preparing them for when it’s going to get physical, and I just didn’t do that,” Huskies coach David Cope said on the field after the game. “I just didn’t have them ready to play against a different kind of a team, and that’s on me — that’s coaching, not the players.”
The Rangers added their fourth goal early in the second half on a pass into the box from a free kick.
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“It was just three bad plays by us, and they capitalized on all three of them,” senior captain Josh Keiser said of the first half. “We didn’t score when we were down 1-0, and we could have. And then it got away from us.”
Chavez kept up his defensive intensity into the final seconds and showed that Huskies never quit. His defense set up a stoppage in play that allowed senior goalie Ulises Tellez back in to finish the game.
“You know, high school sports is pretty magical, and we’re just glad we were able to have a season,” Cope said. “This has been a great group of kids, and it was so cool to see 11 seniors finish on the field there.”
‘It’s been fun’
The Huskies earned the no. 1 seed in the playoffs by going a perfect 10-0 in the regular season, scoring 55 goals and allowing 2. In the first round playoff match on Thursday, Battle Mountain beat Montrose, a 5-0 shutout in the snow in Edwards.
Bryant Ramirez, a junior, scored 15 goals this year, and Chavez led the way with 16. Chavez also led 4A with 14 assists.
“Everyone works hard and plays for each other,” said Castillo, who’s heading to Larimer Community College to continue his soccer career. “It’s family.”
With players like Sam Koontz, who was a focus on offense in the first round against Montrose before being switched to defense against the Rangers, Cope has always built a team-first mentality at Battle Mountain.
“This group is really tight and versatile,” Cope said. “They change positions and support each other. And they grew a lot as young men, and that’s what you hope, that soccer is a vehicle for growth.”
These Huskies trained through a summer last year for a season that then didn’t happen, followed by the challenges that come with playing high school sports during a pandemic this year. There were outdoor practices in the middle of winter because that was the only way to gather.
“We had practices in January and February when it was winter in Eagle County, Colorado, and these guys were awesome and into it,” Cope said. “They’re just a great group of guys and I’m proud to know them.”
And the feeling goes both ways with the players admiring their fearless leader.
“He’s an amazing coach,” Castillo said. “He’s taught me a lot of things on and off the field. He’s helped me grow up and always believed in me.”
“It’s good to play under someone with so much experience,” Keiser said, “and who’s won it all before. It’s been fun.”
Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and email@example.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.