Battle Mountain takes down Aspen 16-11 |

Battle Mountain takes down Aspen 16-11

Huskies hand defending league champion Skiers first Western Slope League loss since 2015 season

Izabelle Kovacik runs downfield during Tuesday's game between Battle Mountain and Aspen. The freshman scored four goals in the Huskies' 16-11 win.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Battle Mountain’s 8-2 league record made for a stellar 2022 season, but those two blemishes — both at the hands of Aspen — required some revenge.

“They’re big rivals so I’m just happy that we beat them,” Husky midfielder Izabelle Kovacik said after the Huskies laid down a convincing 16-11 win over the Skiers Tuesday night in Edwards. Aspen came into the game with a 2-0 record and ranked No. 8 in the March 20 poll, one spot ahead of the Huskies, whose only loss all year came on March 13 against Denver East.

“Great win — thrilled with the result,” head coach Mat Ballay said. The Skier’s loss wasn’t just their first on the year, though. Until Tuesday, Aspen’s last league defeat came on March 19, 2015, when they fell to Fruita Monument. The Skiers were 10-0 in league play in 2019, 2021 and 2022 and 7-0 2016-2018 (the 2020 season was canceled). For the curious stat geeks out there, they went 7-1 in 2015 and were also 7-0 in 2014.

“Through my entire time playing here, we’ve never beat Aspen before,” said junior Molly Kessenich, who led Battle Mountain with five goals. “It’s been awhile. They’re just always the team to beat and the fact that we actually did this time, it’s really cool to have that be our team.”

Piper Sassi looks for an open teammate in the first half against Aspen.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Anne Hilgartner got the Huskies on the board first in the game’s second minute. Alexandra Dienst and Kessenich followed shortly after to give Battle Mountain an early 3-0 lead. Aspen responded with two quick goals in a 45-second span before a scoreless stretch quieted the cold crowd braving the bleak conditions. Kessenich and Kovacik, the latter of whom would finish with four goals, would heat things up with a 6-0 late first-half run, ultimately giving the Huskies a 9-3 lead after the first 24 minutes.

Support Local Journalism

Anne Hilgartner scored the first goal for the Huskies in Battle Mountain’s 16-11 win over Aspen.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

“I’m surprising myself every day,” Kovacik said. “I was not expecting to make varsity in the first place, and when I made it I was expecting little to no playing time, so I’m just really proud of myself and my teammates.”

“We talked about just creating space and cutting through and just kind of knowing where everyone is,” Kessenich added of the scoring spree. “When there’s two people on one side and a person cuts through and then you have a dodging lane — we just started to do that more and work with each other on offense.”

Anne Hilgartner moves into the offensive zone late in the first half against Aspen.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Ballay praised the play of Audrey Knight, Cassidy Kinzler, Stella Campanale and Kylah Romer for anchoring the defense and stifling Aspen.

“We came out fast,” the coach said. “I thought in that first half, the Kovacik twins really led the charge,” he continued. “They really helped start to create a lead and control the tempo of the game.”

Carter Youngblood looks for an open teammate during the first half against Aspen.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Abby Dembeck kept the momentum going in the second half, scoring twice. At one point, the Huskies had built a 14-3 advantage. Then, led by Haley Schmela, Aspen finally woke up late. A 6-1 run made it 15-9, and Schmela scored with 1:42 remaining to make it 16:11.

“We got a little sloppy towards the end when they started to apply a lot of pressure,” Ballay admitted. “So a lot of things we can work on but overall, loved the effort from the girls. We followed the game plan and the results showed.”

After 56-straight league wins, according to, Aspen finally wound up on the wrong side of a league game. Battle Mountain, which improved to 4-1, will look to go to 3-0 in league play at Summit on Thursday. After the monumental win, Kessenich is optimistic about what her team’s future holds.

“Considering how far we went last year, too, I just think every year I’ve been a part of the program it’s just slowly getting better and better,” she said. “We’re getting more cohesive and figuring things out, so I hope to go far this year, but we’ll see.”

Battle Mountain improved to 4-1 with a 16-11 win over Aspen on Tuesday in Edwards.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Support Local Journalism