Battle Mountain eliminated in painful fashion
EDWARDS — “The Senior Talk” came early for Battle Mountain soccer, which was bad and good.
The bad part is that Huskies soccer coach David Cope addresses each of his seniors in the locker room after the season is done, which it was after a shocking 3-1 quarterfinals loss to Standley Lake on Saturday night in Edwards.
The good part of “The Senior Talk” is that it first gives all involved time to feel their extremities again after chilly evening. And then Cope also usually gets around to a funny anecdote about one of his seniors — in this case, 12 — that makes everyone laugh again.
Levity was needed after the Huskies’ 3-1 defeat because of how it happened. Battle Mountain dug itself into a 2-0 hole, a deficit from which it could not recover, behind mistakes from two of its stalwarts. If center-back Miles Joersz and goalie Jack Skidmore weren’t with this team this year, then the Huskies wouldn’t have sniffed the Elite Eight for the fourth time in five years.
Yet strange things inexplicably happened to that pair on Saturday.
“In this sport, sometimes, it goes against you,” Cope said. “The two guys, I think our defending has been unbelievably consistent this year. To see us make two mistakes in the back and see us give up two goals, you know, that’s just lightning. That’s unlucky.”
Like every good soccer team, Battle Mountain (15-3) knows that to move forward you have to go back. And so in the 10th minute, Joersz, just like he’d done countless times before, passed the ball back to Skidmore for his keeper to advance it — except it got by Skidmore and turned into an own goal.
Down 1-0, the Huskies seemed to be on their way to an equalizer with a sustained attack. Gators goalie Kevin Griebel made a spectacular save on two shots. Uriel Lopez had an open net, only to be denied on a brilliant clear off the line from a Standley Lake defender.
The Huskies looked like they’d be down just 1-0 going into the break when Skidmore came out to clear a ball from the Battle Mountain end. He headed it out well, but it landed at Standley Lake’s Ben Smith’s feet. Smith lofted the ball into the open net and the Gators led, 2-0.
“Awful to see it happen to those players,” senior Donnie Leavitt said. “Miles has been solid the whole year. … Same thing with Jack.”
Deserved? Absolutely not. Lucky for Standley Lake? Doubtless.
Yet give Standley Lake credit — the Gators took the breaks and ran with them. They held off a furious charge from the Huskies in the second half. They defended well and put it away in the second half on a Kyle Iftodi goal.
Any season that ended with only eight teams standing is a good one, despite initial pain. Battle Mountain bounced back from 9-6-1 and a first-round exit last season to win the league title and take a school-best No. 3 ranking to this years’ quarterfinals.
In the end, what Cope likes about this team came after watching tape of the team’s 3-2 win over Valor Christian earlier this week in Round 2.
Creek Kamby scored the team’s third goal on Tuesday — and Cope credited him with the Huskies’ lone tally on Saturday. On tape, Kamby on the ground, looks up and searches for teammate Lopez to point at him to give him credit for the pass that led to the goal.
“I just feel like the group arrived in the last week or two at a place where they were sacrificing for each other,” Cope said. “The group was taking joy in their accomplishments. The group was sacrificing for each other physically. When you get to that point, you know it’s been a success.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.