A state title for VMS soccer the day after
This year would theoretically be my 25th high school reunion from San Francisco’s University High School.
I will not be attending. In fact, I was on the school’s email list and, during a survey, was asked if I would like to come back to UHS?
My response was, “I’d rather be water-boarded.”
For some reason, I haven’t heard back from UHS.
In one of the ironic twists of life, despite loathing my own years in high school, I’ve spent the past 18 years covering preps sports and become more a part of the local high school scene than when I actually went to school.
And in the aftermath of the Vail Mountain School girls soccer team winning a state title on Tuesday, what struck me was not only a great soccer game with the right team winning — when our teams are playing opponents out of our coverage zone, of course, I root — was the sense of community involved.
I grew up in San Francisco, a shock, I know, to anyone who has seen my wardrobe, and, certainly in sporting and political senses, still consider myself a San Franciscan, despite living here since September 1997.
At the same time, I am realizing that I just might be a, gasp, Coloradan, or more specifically, an Eagle County-ite — there has to be a better term.
We’ll get to the actual game soon, fear not, but the state final was also an event in person and electronically. (My Facebook, Twitter and email blew up.) I went down early and stopped at the Downieville Conoco to reload my tea mug, only to see VMS fans.
When the gates to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park opened, the mass of orange-clad fans caught CHSAA off guard. (Why would a small school have a crowd ready to go one hour before game time?)
As I wandered the stands before the match, at halftime and after the game, the turnout of the student body, the parents, the teachers and the alumni was stunning. Vail Mountain is a school of about 140 at the high school level and had a crowd of more than 500 fans, a very conservative estimate.
Do the math. I bring this up because a few had Oliver Compton hats. Vail Mountain School’s favorite math teacher is retiring at the end of his 27th year, and the hats had a complicated equation on the side that equaled 27. (Freud could solve three times nine.)
It’s a special community that comes out to a girls soccer game in the middle of the week in such numbers, voice, color (orange) and in varying age with its alumni, and takes such joy from it.
I saw so many kids I covered throughout the years on Tuesday that I can’t keep it all straight. I view Slade Cogswell, Class of 2001, as a kid. Yet, of course, he was at the game with his son, Nash. So, maybe, Slade’s not a kid. Coach Bob Bandoni probably views Mike Johnston as a kid, even though the latter’s now a state senator.
Will McConathy? Egad. I forget when he graduated. Kris Caples? Ben Talbot? How crazy is it that all of these people would show up for a soccer game of their high school alma mater?
And there I am, one who has spent the past 25 years of my life repressing my own high school experience, and I feel a part of it.
This might be the girls soccer team’s biggest accomplishment of all.
Random notes of the actual game follow.
Don’t read this, Bob
He’s not going to like this, but I’ve made a pretty good living needling him. Bob Bandoni is an excellent coach, and, while all at VMS are trained to focus on the process and not the result, this state title is so deserved.
Bandoni said he was happy about the title in the context of the school’s history in Tuesday’s postgame, and that’s accurate.
But, sir, you are betrayed by the way this team came together this spring. You are betrayed by the tactics you employed during the games I have covered throughout my career. And you are betrayed by the way you were greeted by your players and former players, whom you’ve mentored throughout the years. Their happiness for you shows what kind of coach you are.
There’s a reason that the pitch at VMS is Bandoni Alumni Field. (No jokes this time.) Happy state title, Bob.
Now, could we just get a big video screen like the one at Dick’s for future home games? How cool was that for the kids?
It was a bit weird to watch VMS soccer on a screen like that, although I do admit that as the teams came out for introductions, I was on the screen waving my arms. I was the orange dot at the top of the board.
The Brain Trust
Kaitlyn Zdechlik, you need to hang out with a better crowd. Really, you spend too much time with ruffians like Sylvan Ellefson and Chris Woods.
On a serious note, the players lifted the trophy for all those who have gone before like Madame Zdechlik and the two goof balls. (A note of trivia: Sylvan and Chris were on two Vail Daily covers this year?)
I’ve heard the rumble that this is 2A, not 3A in which all VMS soccer teams previous have competed. Stop right there.
Class 2A is long overdue. VMS’ official CHSAA count is 110 (from Count Day on Oct. 1, 2014) and about 140 in actuality. Even at 2A, all of VMS’ playoff wins were still against bigger schools by CHSAA count — Clear Creek (224), Denver Christian (142) and Dawson (209).
And don’t forget league play — Aspen (555), Basalt (373), Coal Ridge (547), Grand Valley (291), Moffat County (504), Rifle (720) and Roaring Fork (333).
VMS has always been on the wrong side of the numbers and this year was no exception. And, like this spring, the Gore Rangers are the exception to the rule when it comes to the small schools competing with their larger counterparts.
What I hope for the sport is that CHSAA, by creating a 2A girls classification, will help expand the sport. There are a lot of schools, which, unlike VMS, have struggled to compete in the format of “Everybody with student bodies of 600 or fewer plays 3A.”
The first year of 2A soccer was the haves and have-nots, but that’s going to change as more schools field soccer teams. In the meantime, there was no questioning the quality of the elite 2A teams.
However one looks at it, this was well earned for VMS.
• OK, that Tess Johnson girl is pretty good. If the skiing thing doesn’t work out, she could be a decent soccer player. She got the goals, but they were the result of great buildup. After being a little unsettled in the first half, VMS dominated the second. What impresses me about all those in white and orange was their poise on the field. While we, as spectators, were freaked out about overtime and possibly kicks — holy Battle Mountain flashback, Batman — they had it.
• It also speaks volume about this team’s maturity that they defer to each other. Incorporating players as the season goes on is very difficult. Resentments over playing time can fester. There was none of that, and everyone had a role.
• By the way, how cool was it that a VMS soccer team had depth? That hasn’t happened.
• Funniest moment of postgame: The trophy was too heavy for Kristen Vossler to lift. She needed help from her teammates.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.