Battle Mountain soccer … the day after
As Huskies soccer coach David Cope and I did the usual postgame after Tuesdays 3-2 playoff loss to Greeley West, fullbacks Jamie Lee Roberts and McKenzie Stevens ran by us.Well, I thought, at least the two will be able to participate in track regionals this weekend. (From my experience, youve got to laugh about some things, otherwise youre going to cry.) Seriously though, these kids were running after a devastating loss when the natural instinct is to get into bed for about a month.Trite as it is, life goes on, though this one will hurt a while. If it didnt, wed have a real problem. Already Ive heard theories and broached a few. Lets take a look at a few of them.Coaching?Yes, the traditional postseason blame game has begun.Ive already started to hear the Well, if he had played so-and-so … Stop it now. Copes record the last four school years with both the boys and girls is a stunning 113-18-4 with six league titles. He is clearly playing the right players.Perhaps the funniest/saddest thing Ive heard is that apparently Cope has turned into a-win-at-all-cost-style coach who doesnt care about his players. Are we talking about the same coach here 40-something-years-old, walks around with lots of pieces of folded paper in his pockets and likes Manchester United? Anyone whos saying this simply hasnt spent 5 minutes with Cope.Seriously, people who are saying this garbage dont know a good thing when they have one.The SlopeThis is the elephant in the room. With Delta playing 4A soccer in the spring and not the fall, Battle Mountain has to play 14 of 15 games in league, and it hurts girls soccer every spring. Huskies captain Emily LyBarger graciously wouldnt use it as an excuse after Tuesdays game, but I disagree with her.For the last few years, the team has said all the right things about focusing on game at a time and being concerned about the upcoming match with Palisade or whomever, but who are they politely kidding?Battle Mountain gets two games per year with Steamboat Springs and maybe one from Glenwood. You cannot expect to be battle-tested with what is essentially a three-game season. The most telling stat this year for Battle Mountain soccer is that no player had a game-tying goal because the Huskies never trailed until they played Greeley West Tuesday. You can simulate situationsall you want in practice and Battle Mountain does but nothing matches game experience.And early exits are not unique to Battle Mountain. Dating back to the 2004 state tournament, including Tuesdays action, other Slope region teams are 4-16 on the playoff stage. Since 2005, when Battle Mountain first made the playoffs, the Huskies and Sailors are an identical 2-4 come May.Cope and Steamboat coach Rob Bohemian have been pushing to split the Slope into two divisions. Teams would play twice within the Eastern Division (Battle Mountain, Steamboat, Moffat County and Eagle Valley) and once against the West (Glenwood, Rifle, Palisade and Delta) with a cross-over game for each team. Theres also been talk of pulling Montrose and Montezuma Cortez into the league.In either scenario, the Huskies would have more than one nonleague game against Summit and its not a reach to see Cope picking up the phone to the likes of Broomfield, Niwot and/or Liberty and say, Well be at your place at your convenience.Unfortunately, athletic directors around the league not including Battle Mountains Rich Houghton arent keen on the idea because the current league set-up makes for easy scheduling. Bohlmann and Cope should continue to press this issue or hope that Count Day brings changes to the league.Curse?I was surprised when LyBarger said, Theres like a curse on us in the postseason. I know her father, Tim, is a big Red Sox fan, and fans are big on karma whether it be the Sox (Red and White), the Cubs or England in the World Cup (Cope).But there is no need for an exorcism or ritual sacrifice or any other exercise to rid Battle Mountain of a so-called curse. Postseason games are meant to be tight see Battle Mountain volleyball at the state tournament last fall, losing two tough five-setters or Huskies hockey. Girls soccer has won (Thomas Jefferson in 2005 and Denver South last year) or been very competitive in five of its six playoff games in the last four seasons.There is no Bill Buckner thing going on here.Raised standardsIts also important to remember that times are different at Battle Mountain. The school has won four state titles in the last three years, which is wonderful, but not normal. Soccer fans have been frankly spoiled by the boys team for whom a first-round win is pretty much considered automatic. And the girls soccer team is also likely a victim of their own success. The Huskies are 55-3-2 during the last four regular seasons, so people in and around the program just make the leap that Battle Mountain should be winning postseason games.History tells us that it doesnt work that way. Cross country had to build for years to achieve its success. Volleyball was a doormat for nearly a half decade before it got to this stage. And it wasnt too long ago that boys soccer struggled to qualify for and advance in the postseason.Opening your history books, please, Battle Mountain went 9-4-2 overall and 2-2-2 in the 3A Slope, beating Basalt in overtime, 3-2 (Juan Macias), on the final day of the season to make a state-seeding game. The Huskies knocked of Heritage Christian, 5-0, to make state, but got drubbed at Salida in the first round.In 1999, the team had to beat or tie Vail Mountain on the final day of the season to qualify for state. Battle Mountain won that memorable contest, 2-1 (Alberto Saenz), also in OT. The Huskies promptly got crushed by Kent Denver in the first round.When the Huskies moved to 4A, they again had to go through state-seeding games, essentially the equivalent of a first-round playoff game in a 32-team field. The boys lost to Niwot and Conifer in 2000 and 2001, respectively. It wasnt until 2002 and a 1-0 win (thank you, Chris Jones) at Alamosa, or their third try at the 4A level, that the boys actually won a postseason game. And it took until 2004, and CHSAA expanding the 4A field to 32 teams, for the Huskies to win an actual first-round playoff game (Ranum). Battle Mountain boys soccers record in its first four years of 4A postseason from 2000-2003 was 2-4, exactly the same as ladies during the last four years.The bottom line is that Battle Mountain has a fine soccer program. While it can never happen fast enough for a soon-to-be graduating senior class, its going to happen … and sooner likely rather than later.In the meantime, Jamie and McKenzie, go get em at regionals.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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