And then there were eight: Huskies advance
EDWARDS — Battle Mountain soccer is going to the Elite Eight and it doesn’t have far to go.
The Huskies are making their fourth trip in five years to the quarterfinals after taking down Valor Christian, 3-2, on Tuesday during the second round of the 4A state playoffs. Whereas this would usually be time for Battle Mountain to hit the road, the No. 3 Huskies will be home for the quarterfinals on Saturday against Standley Lake.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Huskies keeper Jack Skidmore said. “I remember as a sophomore going to Air Academy for the quarterfinals. It’s awesome to sit here and say, ‘You’re coming to us.’ We get the advantage of having a home crowd and it’s awesome. As a group we’re super-excited to be a part of this first for the school.”
It is duly noted that the girls soccer team hosted the quarters last spring. The boys have never done it. There’s no trip to District 20 Stadium or Evergreen, popular quarterfinal destinations in the history of the program, in Battle Mountain’s future.
Mark you calendars — Saturday in Edwards at a time to be determined against Standley Lake, which toppled Niwot in overtime on Tuesday.
The Huskies got off to a slow start against the Eagles. Valor’s Erik Jungjohann beautifully deflected a cross from teammate Robert Lanz for an early 1-0 lead.
“I think in any playoff run, you’re going to face adversity,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “You’re going to play from behind. It’s good for us to face adversity. I thought the first 30 minutes of the second half was superb. That’s so good to see. The temperament in the locker room at halftime was good to see.”
Before halftime, Erik Solis got taken out in the box in the 21st minute. And Cope called for Skidmore to take the kick.
“I was pretty surprised that the penalty got called and Cope pointed to me,” Skidmore said.
Please remember here that Cope has his team work on penalty kicks before every playoff game, dating back to 1998. This is not a phenomena stemming from the 2012 run, during which games against Evergreen and Palmer Ridge were decided by kicks.
This is a coach with English soccer roots.
“We’ve been taking them a lot in training because that’s what we do in the playoffs,” Cope said. “He hits them well. I had it in the back of my mind that, if we got one, he would take it. If we went to a shootout, he would take one. I just hadn’t made it a public announcement.”
Skidmore crushed it for the equalizer.
Midfield takes over
The Huskies were starting to gain their footing in the first half and took over the second half. That was Solis, Uriel Lopez and Oscar Lopez in the midfield controlling the game.
“At first, we were nervous, but we got some confidence,” Solis said. “We said let’s play our game. Our game is playing fast. We know. We’ve been playing with each other since we were little.”
And it didn’t hurt that Solis had drawn a penalty in the first half. Solis said afterward that Valor was worried about him in the box in the second half. Solis made a beauty of a run from the left along the end line and knocked it out to Donnie Leavitt for a 2-1 lead.
In the meantime, Creek Kamby made his return from a knee injury way back on Oct. 15 against Eagle Valley.
“It was good to see the team win when I was gone, but it was nice to be back out there,” Kamby said.
The Huskies were darn happy to have Kamby back. Uriel Lopez fed him for a third goal that ended up being critical.
“It was such a good ball. I haven’t seen a better ball ever,” Kamby said of Lopez’s feed. “All I had to do was poke it in. It was his goal.”
And then there were eight
Battle Mountain is hoping to play Saturday’s quarterfinals under the lights — a 5 or 6 p.m. start. Huskies athletic director Ryan McKay and his counterpart at Standley Lake will have to get together to nail down the specifics.
“We’ve had 46 practices. I counted them,” Cope said. “And we’ve got another. We get to keep going.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.