Vail Valley soccer 2010: Has the guard already changed? | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley soccer 2010: Has the guard already changed?

EVBS v. GS FILE Barker KA 10-15-09

OK, I have no idea about high school soccer.

Really, the world has pretty much been turned on its head in Eagle County, especially at the 4A level. An honest assessment based on the last two years tells us Eagle Valley and not Battle Mountain is the big dog on the pitch.

We’ll give you folks in Gypsum, who think I’m The Great Satan, who bleeds black and gold, a moment to get yourself back together after that.

Seriously, the Devils won the league in 2008. Yes, Battle Mountain finished ahead of the Devils last fall at 8-0-4 in the Slope, but with no title – still figuring out how that happened – yet Eagle Valley has made the state quarters two falls in a row, while the Huskies have been one-and-done in the postseason.

Huskies partisans will point to the fact that their side is unbeaten against the Devils since 1999. True, but that postseason thing counts more. Also, Eagle Valley essentially won the second meeting last year with a scoreless draw that robbed Battle Mountain of the Slope title.

So what next? It will be hard to top last year’s crazy race with the Devils, Huskies and the Springses (Glenwood and Steamboat). Also remember that Rifle is a 3A soccer school now, so this is going to be tough league with just the Bulldogs (Palisade and Moffat) as lighter games.

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My gut says Steamboat repeats, but as the two local teams found out in the last two years, back-to-back is a monumental task.

However, if things break right, we could be down in Gypsum on Oct. 21 with at least one team playing for a crown.

Key No. 1 – lower expectations. OK, that you weren’t expecting. There will always be high expectations in Eagle-Vail/Edwards. (I’ve caught myself typing Eagle-Vail several times during these previews.) After all, this is the program at Battle Mountain which defines success with four-straight league titles from 2004-07, not to mention a 10-year-plus history of consecutive postseason appearances.

But not winning the league title the last two years does not mean those two campaigns were failures. It’s the wrong way of looking at things. There were times, I feel, the Huskies were too wound up last year by the pressure instead of just playing.

There has to be a basic faith that the system is there. Talent is in the pipeline. Despite graduating a some great players, the guys who remain aren’t exactly schlubs. And the coach is pretty solid too. (The success of Battle Mountain soccer has left David Cope very taken for granted.)

Just play, guys, and let the math work itself out.

Other thoughts:

• Who plays goalie? Let’s see, we could move Cody Hervert back to goalie for tradition’s sake to have a “C. Hervert” there. However, Cody is the answer to who picks up the slack for the graduated Connor Tedstrom at center back? This is the first time in a while Battle Mountain goes into a season not knowing who’s in the net – Clint Hervert, D.J. Van Curan and Josh Ruark.

• Score a darn goal. As we saw last year, every goal counts. Battle Mountain “outscored” Eagle Valley, Steamboat and Glenwood, 5-3, in compiling a 2-0-4 record against those teams. How the Huskies didn’t score in the final game of the season against the Devils is a mystery to me still.

Jack Sunderland should be the main threat, but others need to come out of the woodwork here.

First and foremost, welcome to the bigs, boys. This may be a different crew than in years past, but your opponents won’t care. You are two-time state quarterfinalist to everyone who in years past needed a map to find Gypsum in the soccer world.

I really like that the Devils have upgraded their nonconference slate. They have their one patsy in Middle Park as does Battle Mountain with Summit. You’re entitled. Aside from that, Eagle Valley has good opponents in Coal Ridge, Grand Junction Central, Montrose and Aspen.

Speaking of which, Montrose at Eagle Valley on Sept. 23 – after playoff meetings in two of the last three years, that should be fun.

I’ll ask the same question of the Devils that I did of the Huskies. Who plays in goal? The Devils will miss Mario Gonzalez.

That said, one of the things I do admire about coach Jason Ritmiller is that he is building a program and not a one-year wonder in Gypsum. That’s what 2009 was all about when it comes to the history books. While American football is still king at Eagle Valley, Ritmiller’s done a great job filling the JV ranks, and they will be key this year at varsity.

Along those lines, the 3-5-2 which came in late last season needs to stay. This is the next step in the evolution of Eagle Valley soccer. It paid dividends late last season by widening the field. A whole season with it could be very exciting.

And getting back to the first point – no game will be easy this year for Eagle Valley with its reputation. Everyone knows that the Devils knocked off No. 2 Wheat Ridge last year. The Devils have to take care of business against the Bulldogs (especially Moffat, who’s given the Devils some problems recently). Dropping points against Moffat and Palisade will be a killer in a tight Slope race.

It’s Year 2 for coach Slade Cogswell and the Gore Rangers, and having a year under their collective belts should help.

VMS played a lot like the young team it was in 2009. VMS played its best soccer against heavyweights like Aspen and Basalt and down to lower competition. As such Cogswell now knows why former coach Bob Bandoni kept saying “Dios mio” all the time when the former was a player.

Finishing will also be critical for the Gore Rangers. Spring or fall, boys or girls, Bandoni Alumni Field or the old grass pitch, this is an issue for VMS.

Taking it all into consideration, though, as we saw last year, things can change very quickly in the 3A Slope. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Colorado Rocky Mountain School made the playoffs last year. If CRMS can turn things around, anything can happen. If VMS can find more consistency in league play, the Gore Rangers could well be wearing orange this fall, the 10th anniversary of the school’s state-semifinal appearance.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.