Battle Mountain readies for Longmont in opener
EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” The mood was appropriately light during Battle Mountain soccer final practice before today’s state-playoff opener against Longmont at 3 p.m.
“So on an indirect kick, you can shoot straight at the goal,” senior Patty Baskins joked. (Insert your joke from Thursday’s season finale here.)
“Stay out off the box,” barked Connor Tedstrom when the team was taking penalty kicks. (There was, indeed, no encroachment as there was when Tedstrom had a goal called off during Homecoming.)
“The soccer gods are applauding,” Tyler Madison said as thunder boomed and hail ended the session.
“Although we were joking around, I think that’s good,” Huskies senior midfielder Marco Ordono said. “We play our best when we are trying hard and having fun. Everyone’s still being competitive, but it’s a good sign.”
The Huskies (11-4) will need everything they have today. The visiting Trojans (10-4-1) likely are Battle Mountain’s toughest first-round opponent since 2003. (That was No. 1 Liberty when the field was just 16 teams.)
Longmont finished fifth in the Northern League, widely-regarded as the best in 4A. The Trojans’ four losses are to No. 2 Fossil Ridge, No. 3 Broomfield, No. 6 Niwot and No. 13 Silver Creek.
“They’ve played in a lot of close games and the Northern League is like that,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “They’ll be battle-tested. They are used to a game that goes down to the wire. They play on a smaller field than we do, so we would like to stretch them all over the field if we can. I think they’ll be physical. Our players have to be ready for that.”
It’s interesting that Cope used the phrase “battle-tested” to describe Longmont. Trojans Nathan Oliver used the exact same phrase to describe the benefits of playing in the Northern League.
“It prepares you like no other conference,” he said. “We really consider that we are playing with the best because of the (league’s) pedigree. We’ve been battle-tested all season long.”
The Huskies and Trojans have no common opponents and no Kevin Bacon-like degrees of separation to see how they compare. The closest thing comes in the playoffs. Longmont was No. 10 in 2006 and bounced Steamboat, 5-0, before bowing to Niwot, 2-1. Last year, the Trojans lost at Canon City, 2-0, in a first-rounder.
“I think we shot the ball like 60 times to their two,” Oliver said. “We just couldn’t find the net.”
Battle-tested, Part II
While the Trojans have the advantage coming from the Northern League, the Huskies have the edge in playoff experience. Going back to 2005 ” when this year’s seniors were freshmen ” the Huskies will be playing in their ninth postseason game, while this is Longmont’s third. (The Trojans didn’t qualify the two years prior to 2007.)
“I think it really makes a difference that we had so many players there when we lost a late lead to Golden (last year in Round 2),” Huskies striker Davey DeChant said. “We understand what we have to do ” play for two halves and push for more goals, instead of sitting on a lead. Of all the teams I’ve been on here, the biggest difference is playoff experience.”
Another interesting variable could be weather. Weather.com had a forecast of 1-2 inches of snow for Tuesday night and today’s high should be in the 30s at kickoff. Also given the compact nature of the Northern League ” certainly in comparison to the Slope ” this is not the average road trip for the Trojans.
“As far as traveling up there, we certainly wish the roles were reversed,” Oliver said. “On the other hand, the guys are looking forward to getting out of school.”
Along those lines, there will be early dismissal at Battle Mountain today, likely meaning that Huskies will have a loud crowd.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.
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