Battle Mountain, VMS soccer share a theme: Redemption
The playoffs are in the forecast
I left you guys alone for one minute, and all heck broke loose.
OK, it was a few days, but yikes, local soccer seasons came to an abrupt halt last fall.
In 4A, No. 5 Battle Mountain (13-1-1) went down in a heap during the first round of the playoffs against Kennedy, 5-0. Meanwhile, No. 8 Vail Mountain (11-4) got upset by Jefferson Academy, 3-1, the next day in 3A action.
It’s hard not to take this personally, but my sainted, widowed, vodka-imbibing mother turned 75 during the first round of the playoffs, and I left town for a few days. Apparently, the Huskies and Gore Rangers did, too.
With that in mind, I think a safe theme for the fall of 2019 is redemption.
In fairness, the Huskies were a darn good team last year. As Huskies coach David Cope said, “We lost one game in August and we lost one in October.”
Battle Mountain soccer does operate under different expectations than other programs when it goes 13-2-1, wins the team’s fourth straight Slope title and a first-round upset produces a “Meh.”
The highlight of the season was defeating The Classical Academy, 2-0, in an exorcism of sorts. The Titans had owned the Huskies dating back to 2014, beating Battle Mountain five times in four years, including a drubbing in the 2016 state-title game down at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The TCA win was so sweet and the Huskies followed with an authoritative 7-2 pasting of rival Steamboat Springs. (Battle Mountain led 4-0 at the half.) This was turning into a really special team with big postseason ambitions.
And then the Huskies went to Glenwood Springs and got a 2-2 draw.
Is Stubler Memorial Field the worst place in the history of Battle Mountain soccer, even outpacing District 20 Stadium in Colorado Springs? Yes, and you’re old school if you got the District 20 reference.
Was Glenwood Springs a really good team last year? You bet. Did Battle Mountain avenge that loss, beating the Demons to win their fourth Slope title? The team has the sweatshirts to prove it.
The thing is if you have designs on a deep run and, perhaps, the finale at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park — which was how the Huskies were feeling after TCA and Steamboat — you don’t draw in Glenwood.
It’s nit-picky, but that is the margin of error for teams with lofty aspirations. You have to bring it every night/day, depending on the time of kickoff.
Glenwood and the first-round exit against Kennedy have doubtless been fuel throughout the offseason for the Huskies. Battle Mountain returns a tremendous talent in Dani Barajas (24 goals and 20 assists)..
Yes, a lot of seniors graduated. What else is new? This is common practice for this program that will try to become the first Battle Mountain squad to win the Slope five years in a row.
High effort every day in practice or games is the standard, gents.
Growing up Gore Ranger
In retrospect, Vail Mountain’s early exit wasn’t so surprising. As good as this team was, it was a really young team.
Shane Cole, Cameron Bill, Nathan Rouaud and Theo Marston were the only seniors. If there’s an upside to a young team being stung by the upset bug, it’s that just about everyone comes back.
VMS plays a good nonconference schedule with the Dawson School, Colorado Academy, DSST-Stapleton and the Coal Ridge Tournament, not to mention a foundation game against Battle Mountain.
The Gore Rangers should be in good shape by the time the leaves and the jerseys turn orange.
And the Devils
There’s no sugarcoating it. A 1-14 season ain’t good. As much sugarcoating as can be done would be to say there’s a lot of room for improvement.
However, we’ve been here long enough see the mighty Huskies and Gore Rangers not be so mighty, and they’ve come out of it. In my first season here, the Huskies lost to Moffat County on Senior Day. Ouch. In my second season, VMS won only one regular-season game — Battle Mountain. Insert Homer Simpson d’oh here.
Last season was about building a culture and installing a system. Culture may seem like one of those bull-hooey words that VMS girls soccer coach Bob Bandoni uses to sound professorial, but it’s critical.
It’s why we pencil in Battle Mountain and Vail Mountain every year for the postseason. They’ve got it and coach Maggie Sherman, shockingly an acolyte of Bandoni, is bringing it to Gypsum.
Play wide, play to spaces and play diagonally, Eagle Valley. “The System” is a good one. In a few years, Battle Mountain-Eagle Valley games will be like watching two teams in a mirror.
Trust the process.