Preps notebook: The postseason comes into focus | VailDaily.com

Preps notebook: The postseason comes into focus

The tension heightens

Yes, this is from the way-back machine, a shot of Battle Mountain's Grace Johnson as a sophomore in 2017. As the now-senior says, it's a whole different ballgame running as one of the team's leading runners than as one lower in the pecking order. That transition has been a key to Battle Mountain's dynasty.
Rex Keep | Daily file photo

Welcome to the home stretch — every run, match, and game means something.

Our cross-country teams are in state. Battle Mountain and Vail Mountain soccer will make it official next week. There two weeks left for volleyball, and all four local teams are in contention. And Vail Christian football may just squeeze into the playoffs.

Time for some notes, quotes, and anecdotes.

Cross-country

• We’ll get to running the milesplit.com simulator next week in anticipation of state — me thinks Niwot is going to be the theme for both the Huskies and Devils in their assorted quests.

In the meantime, we’ve got to take a moment to appreciate what happened on Thursday at the Region 1 meet down in Grand Junction.

One of the silly accusations I get occasionally is that the Vail Daily covers male athletics more than females, which is somewhat laughable given how good girls’ running is at both Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley.

With nine regional titles in a row and finishing second, first, first and second at state the last four years for the Huskies and the Blairs (Samantha and Joslin) crushing it for the Devils, the boys have been an afterthought.

So huzzah for the Battle Mountain boys for winning regionals as well on Thursday. We’ve talked a lot over the years — and justly — about the tradition on the girls’ side at Battle Mountain.

For those of us who are getting old and crusty like myself and coach Rob Parish, we know there is one with the guys as well. (Madame Kelli Parish is not a day over 24.)

The first Huskies running dynasty was the boys, four regional titles from 2005-2008 with state titles the middle two years of that run.

It was a different regional set up during that time, so we are comparing apples and oranges, but the gents won in Delta in 2007 with 16 points. That was Jonny Stevens, John O’Neill, Tony Crisofulli, Jamie Fahrmeyer and Mario Gonzalez going 1-2-3-4-6 at regionals.

It’s hard to see that happening again.

Stevens, O’Neill, Crisofulli and Connor Tedstrom also started the 3,200-meter relay mania at Battle Mountain, winning the state title in 2008.

The fun thing is that these guys still follow Huskies running — boys and girls — on social media.

• I’m sure there was hooting and hollering — as there should be — after the Battle Mountain boys won the regional crown, but Nico Piliero sounded so ho-hum about what he did personally and what the team achieved.

• We really take the Battle Mountain girls winning regionals for granted. It’s understandable, analyzing the talent, but still ridiculous. There are the names we mention often, but we’re not going to mention them — hah. How about the Gaylords, Sydney and Hannah, the Denardos, Jenai and Rychelle, Christina Shearon, Kaela Fahrney and Megan Rossman?

It’s taken a village to do this.

• The most underrated aspect of the nine-peat is how the ladies have stepped into their roles as the years change. Being the fifth or a sixth runner on a team is a completely different thing than being No. 1.

As a sixth, if you have a bad day, it doesn’t matter. If you’re the No. 1, congratulations, you’ve just sunk your team and ended a dynasty.

“It’s really weird to think about freshman year,” Huskies senior Grace Johnson said. “I didn’t know what I was doing. Over the years, you find out what it’s like to be one of the top runners on your team.”

It’s worth noting that Johnson wasn’t your average freshman. She saved the day at state in 2016 as the team’s fifth scorer after Lizzy Harding went down. But the transition from supporting cast to prime-time players isn’t as easy as Johnson, Elliot Pribramsky and Emma Reeder have made it look.

• How good are the kids, Milaina Almonte and Lily Whelan? Rhetorical question.

• We root for everyone at state, yet I’m going to admit I’m rooting a little extra for Joslin Blair at state. She has meant so much to Eagle Valley cross-country. She’s paved the way. I want her to go out with a bang.

Soccer

• Battle Mountain soccer bludgeoned Palisade, 8-0, on Saturday afternoon to move to 12-0-1. Now the work begins.

Trevino Twiss and Battle Mountain soccer have a big week ahead with games against Glenwood Springs and Steamboat Springs.
Chris Dillmann | Daily file photo

Tuesday, Glenwood Springs comes to town. That’s the draw in the 12-0-1. Steamboat Springs on the road on Thursday is a trap game. The Sailors are done, postseason-wise, and that’s their playoff game.

The fellas, as coach David Cope would say, need to take care of business this week. Saturday was a clinch for the team’s fifth 4A Slope title, which is amazing, given that no Huskies soccer team has done this, and there have been some pretty solid squads in the program’s history.

The rating-percentage index is looking good. The Huskies are holding on to No. 1, which is nice. The key is top four, were, say, Golden, Skyview or Silver Creek to pass Battle Mountain. Top four in the RPI means the Huskies are home through the quarterfinals.

If Battle Mountain slips to Nos. 2-4, all we’re talking about is wearing different colored kits at the semis in Parker or beyond.

• Vail Mountain soccer is in, sitting at No. 18 in the RPI — 32 teams also make it at 3A. I don’t know if a win over Aspen on Thursday can move the Gore Rangers to No. 16 and a home game on Halloween in the first round of the playoffs. But orange on Oct. 31 would be appropriate.

Volleyball

• I’ve been skeptical of Battle Mountain’s record, 14-3 entering Saturday’s action. Of course, taking both matches against Eagle Valley is always a good thing with regard to the rivalry.

But … Battle Mountain’s biggest issue has been competing with the elite of the Slope. That said, the Huskies knocked off Glenwood Springs, 17-25, 25-21, 17-25, 25-23, 15-8, on Saturday.

That’s more like it. The Huskies have also addressed resiliency well this week. They lost the first set to the Devils on Thursday and bounced back. A five-set win does the same.

Is Battle Mountain the No. 9-ranked team in the state? Probably not, but the Huskies took a step this week. Next week is at Steamboat Springs and another shot at Palisade at the Coal Ridge tourney.

• Eagle Valley and Vail Mountain look inside the No. 36 in the RPI required for the postseason while Vail Christian was No. 30 as of this writing. Going from 0-for-2017 to the playoffs in two years would be a heck of a story.

Football

As of Saturday afternoon, Vail Christian is holding at No. 1. What is surprising — in a good way — is the Saints’ opponents’-winning percentage is .584, the second-best in RPI top 10. No. 4 Dayspring Christian’s OWP was .589 before bashing No. 5 Merino, 44-14, on Saturday, so its RPI numbers will rise.

The RPI is nice, but what the Saints need to do is keep playing clean games at Plateau Valley and home for Byers to complete the regular season. Don’t let either team hang around and stay healthy.

And while we should never look ahead, the second-round 1-8 matchup could be the Saints and Pikes Peak Christian. That’s your motivation, boys.