2A championship game turns into a coronation
COMMERCE CITY — Never. A. Doubt.
The Vail Mountain School soccer team painted everything at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in orange on Tuesday with a 7-0 shellacking of Dawson School during the 2A title game as the Gore Rangers repeated as state champions.
“It’s the best final game I could ever ask for,” said senior co-captain Annie Blakslee, who accepted the state trophy at midfield with fellow captain Sydney Sappenfield.
The two brought the trophy over to the very orange Vail Mountain School rooting section and raised it for a delirious group of Gore Rangers partisans.
“It’s heavy,” Sappenfield said. “I feel like we’ve had a great season all around. Every player has earned it. Every single player has worked for it.”
This is the school’s third state title — the team doubled up Dawson, 2-1, here last year, in addition to the 1994 boys skiing team.
What’s more, Tuesday’s game represented the largest margin of victory in a Colorado high school state-title game. The previous mark was four goals, done three times, last in Denver Christian’s 4-0 victory over Kent Denver in 2004.
‘There is nothing noble …’
While head coach Bob Bandoni was a little sheepish about the final score, this was, pardon the expression, mission accomplished for the Gore Rangers on many levels.
While saying all the right things, Vail Mountain School (14-2) was upset with its 3-2 loss to these same Mustangs earlier this month at Bandoni Alumni Field.
Bandoni harnessed that into the Ernest Hemingway quote, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self,” that became the team’s mantra.
Not only was that an introduction to one of America’s literary greats but also it kept the Gore Rangers’ focus on improving themselves as opposed to the level of their competition.
“I think we have the tendency as people to learn more in defeat than when we win,” Bandoni said. “It makes you analyze. It makes you adhere more to your principles.”
And the result on Tuesday was a replay of the second Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran fight in 1980 — no mas.
A tidal title wave
Vail Mountain School and Dawson were scoreless through the first 25 minutes, but it was clear that Gore Rangers, technically the road team and resplendent in florescent orange, were dominating.
Not only did Vail Mountain School have the run of play but they adjusted nicely to Dawson’s counter-attacking style. By playing the right angles, the Gore Rangers smothered Dawson’s Hannah Isenhart, who had 40 goals and 18 assists during the 16 games previous to Tuesday.
Emma Hall finally got it going for Vail Mountain School with a brilliant run up the left side and an equally splendid finish.
As has become the Gore Rangers’ calling card during this playoff run, they struck again immediately with Anwyn Urquhart feeding Tess Johnson for a 2-0 lead. Johnson finished with a goal and two assists, which gives her a pretty good scoring line in two matches at the home of the Colorado Rapids — she scored both goals in last year’s title game against Dawson.
The first of Johnson’s two helpers sprung Lindsey Peterson. And if Dawson had any thoughts of coming back from a 3-0 deficit, Olivia Giaccio slammed that door shut with a corner kick that Mustangs keeper Kate Gallop mishandled. As she tried to catch the ball, it went through her hands and into the net.
“I don’t really remember what happened, but it was pretty awesome,” Giaccio said.
Vail Mountain School goalie Holly Parker could relate to Gallop’s miscue. With the caveat that teams in any sport win and lose as a team, Parker was blunt about her performance earlier this May against the Mustangs in East Vail.
“It was my worst game of the season,” she said. “So coming into this game I had a lot of drive to do my best, and I know the rest of my team really wanted it. I didn’t want to let them down.”
Parker was tested early and she passed with flying colors with saves. By the time Urquhart scored two goals in the second half, the first coming on a beautiful pass from Johnson, and Sappenfield found the back of the net, Parker’s rough outing earlier this month was happily a thing of the past.
Parker was lifted in the 65th minute so freshman Sarah Evans could get some experience in net on the big stage. She left the field to an ovation from the fans and her teammates and an enthusiastic high five from goalie coach Michael Busenhart.
As always, Vail Mountain School’s fans, led by Jeanne Macsata, were in loud form, easily outnumbering Dawson’s supporters.
“It’s amazing knowing we have so many supporters,” Peterson said. “That energy they bring definitely goes into our energy. We just want to win for our family, which is the school.”
And with that, the Gore Rangers ladies are queens of 2A soccer for the second year in a row, having piled up a 30-3 record the last two springs.
“I think everybody feels a deep sense of gratification of being part of this group,” Bandoni said. “Primarily that comes from work ethic and a high work rate on the field. More than that, we talk a lot in this program about one mind and about synergy. I think there’s a real sense of accomplishment when you have done something as a group.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.