Battle Mountain soccer makes Elite Eight
Huskies beat Montrose, 1-0
EDWARDS — Battle Mountain goaltending coach Jim Glendining really enjoyed Tuesday’s playoff match between the No. 1-ranked Huskies and No. 17 Montrose.
Of course, goalie coaches always love 1-0 nailbiters, and while the Battle Mountain faithful might have had a few cardiac episodes, the Huskies are moving on to the state quarterfinals after squeezing by the Indians.
“Survive and advance,” Battle Mountain coach David Cope said. “I thought we actually played really well. We created enough chances to win three games. They didn’t quite fall for us today. If we need luck, we’ll take in the later rounds. We hit the crossbar twice and created some other good chances and the (Montrose goalie) made some good saves.”
Battle Mountain (16-0-1) started the season back in August with a comfortable 7-2 win over the Indians, which gives the fan pause with a 1-0 victory over the same squad during the Round of 16.
This is probably a good time to remember that 70 4A soccer teams start the season with dreams of a state title, 32 make the playoffs and, by the end of Tuesday, only eight teams will be left standing and Battle Mountain is one of them, so save the style points for gymnastics.
“We were never letting the 7-2 score determine our mindset,” said defender Quinn Mitchell, who set up the lone goal of the game. “We knew it was a completely different team . They’re way better now and they were going to give us their best. Everyone’s going to give us our best.”
And, ever the history buff, Cope added that even the hallowed 2012 squad that’s the standard by which all soccer teams are measured did go to two shootouts (Evergreen in the quarterfinals and Palmer Ridge for the title).
Any mention of the 2012 team and its shootouts automatically brings up then-goalie Christian Espinoza, who stood on his head in those situations. That brings up the current goalie Cruz Ramirez.
There have been times this year when Ramirez and Uli Tellez could have taken a nap and/or ordered out for a pizza while between the pipes. Tuesday, Montrose tested Ramirez and the sophomore did just fine.
“It just comes down to your mindset,” he said. “When there are boring games like that you just have to keep your focus on the game. When you get that action, that’s when you have to work hard, be there for the team and help them out.”
Ramirez vacuumed or parried multiple Indians’ chances and Battle Mountain’s back four of Josh Keiser, Harrison Rubis, Mitchell, and Bryant Ramirez were solid.
When one mentions that defense, holding midfielder Louis Castillo as well as Ivan “Tommy” Solis as a late defensive addition merit mention. Joey Leonardo, a midfielder responsible for maintaining possession, is also likely one of the team’s unsung heroes this season,
Speaking of possession, the Huskies coaching staff monitors it all season. On Tuesday, despite the narrow margin of victory, the Huskies still held the ball for 60% of the match.
Off to the races
Mitchell is a fast kid. He has a gold medal from last spring’s 2A state track meet in the 800-meter relay attesting to that fact. (Mitchell attends Vail Christian.)
So it was no surprise to see No. 17 streak down the right side deking his defender out of his shoes by passing the ball around his Indians pursuer to himself.
“I knew if I could get a fast break I could help the team get going and help us to get something going,” Mitchell said. “I saw the guy on my back so I flicked it around him. I just did what I had to do to get it to our strikers. I knew they could finish it.”
Mitchell crossed it to Dani Barajas, who flicked it to Kevin Chavez for the score.
Battle Mountain probably thought it would score more. In fairness, Barajas hit the crossbar twice and Trevino Twiss was very close as well with a shot over the bar, just a few examples of the Huskies’ copious chances.
“It’s really good to see a game where every possession counts, and one possession could change it,” Cope said. “You hope to be involved in games like that. It toughens up the group. It’s good to see some of our guys play 80 minutes. We haven’t had too many games when we’ve had to play 80 minutes.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.