A win to forget for Eagle Valley
GYPSUM – Seven minutes couldn’t have come any quicker for Eagle Valley soccer Tuesday. After the Devils’ Steve White scored in the third minute of the first overtime, Rifle mounted several attacks, but Eagle Valley hung on for a 5-4 win that kept its playoff hopes alive.”It wasn’t pretty,” said Eagle Valley coach Chad Sloniker. “But we’ll put it behind us. Good teams find a way to win and we did that. But we can’t do this against Glenwood.”Thursday, Eagle Valley (6-4-1 in the 4A Western Slope, 7-6-1 overall) closes out the regular season against Glenwood at home. If the Devils beat the Demons, they will still have a chance at a postseason game.”To be in this spot is good,” Sloniker said. “Last year’s team wouldn’t be in this spot.”
Had it not been for a flurry of goals late in the first half Tuesday in Gypsum, this year’s Devils could have dropped back to .500. With Eagle Valley trailing 3-1 in the 25th minute, Cesar Castillo cut the deficit in half on a penalty kick. The Devils’ Gonzalo Gomez earned the free kick for his team when he hustled to a ball in the bottom right corner of the Rifle box and the Rifle goalie pushed him.A few minutes later, a Rifle defender was called for interfering with Castillo, and the Eagle Valley forward then launched a free kick from 10 yards outside the box that the Rifle keeper couldn’t handle. Castillo, who had the game’s first goal in the 10th minute on a corner kick, recorded yet another hat trick, and has 25 scores on the year.Mike Smith completed the first-half comeback with a left-footed tap in that came off a great cross from teammate Gilberto Martinez. Castillo also factored into the goal, tapping a pass with the back of his foot to a streaking Martinez.”We gave away too many soft goals,” said Rifle coach Tom Taucher. “We touched four of their five goals, but didn’t hold on to them.”On the Devils’ overtime goal, Castillo lifted a ball from the right side of the net that slipped through backup goalie Eric Sanchez’s hands and hit the post. White was in position to slam home the ball.Forcing overtimeAs has been the case all year, Trevor Grayson was brilliant in net for the Devils. After Rifle’s James Mitchell knotted the game early in the second half on a clear rush to the net, Grayson preserved the tie and gave his team a chance to win the game.
“That guy’s money,” Sloniker said. “He hasn’t let in a bad goal since (the first) Battle Mountain game.”Grayson made two diving deflections on strikes from just outside the box, one of which he was screened by a defender. In the final minutes of regulation and overtime, Grayson was in position for Rifle shots that sailed wide.”We dominated in the second half,” Taucher said. “We played well enough to win.”For the first few minutes of overtime, however, Eagle Valley mounted an attack.”We were trying to keep possession,” Castillo said.The Devils, knowing they had to win, moved a defender up to forward. And because there was no stoppage time in either of the two five-minute overtimes, injured players from each team made painfully quick exits for substitutions. Gomez jumped on one foot from the middle of the field to the sideline with a calf injury in the first overtime, and then rolled off the field from the Devils’ box in the second overtime. A Rifle midfielder was dragged off the field by teammates after injuring his knee with four minutes to play. Jumping out
Rifle erased an early Eagle Valley lead and then took control of the game in a matter of minutes.Mitchell scored in the 17th minute after a Bears’ corner kick to tie the game at one. Five minutes later, Mitchell added another when he stormed in on the right side Devils’ box and then ripped a shot in the left corner. No more than a minute after its second goal, Rifle took advantage of a listless Eagle Valley defense to extend its lead to 3-1. Mitchell nearly made it 4-1 on a header that hit the post.Eagle Valley was without the services of several starters.”It’s frustrating because I’m putting a different team on the field every game because of eligibility,” Sloniker said. “I had to pull three players up from JV, and it makes a difference.”Sloniker said all of his ineligible players should be available Thursday. Depending on field conditions, the Glenwood match will either be played at Hot Stuff Stadium at 6 p.m. or at the Gypsum Town Fields at 4 p.m.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.
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