Daring to four-peat
EAGLE-VAIL ” Wednesday was Picture Day for the fall sports teams at Battle Mountain. On the soccer pitch, this year’s Huskies eagerly picked their jerseys and posed for the team picture.
But what will that picture tell in 2007?
The Battle Mountain boys’ soccer team is the three-time defending champion of the 4A Western Slope. As has become common after each title, graduation has taken its toll.
This year, D.J. Van Curan, Erik Garcia, Chris Woodruff, Alberto Hernandez, Mike Scigliano, Gus Everly, Dylan Hall and Wilder Heuga have their diplomas, and Jose Pavon graduated early, while Tony Seibert is in Park City, Utah, pursuing his freeskiing career.
And yet like previous falls, there’s still a ton of talent, including players who have bided their time for their opportunity to take up the mantle.
“It’s a big responsibility,” senior Byron Pottoroff said. “You’ve got to follow what everybody else has been doing. You want to win another one. You want to keep up with the tradition.”
Head coach David Cope, who along with assistant Kyle Mercer, has seen the Huskies’ rise to prominence in the Slope, is reluctant to come out with a four-peat or bust attitude, but has learned that different teams find their own identity.
“One of the things I learned last year is that every team has its own journey,” Cope said. “While we’re extremely proud as coaches of three league titles in a row, for the players, this year is the only year that matters.”
Which brings us back to that four-peat thing.
“Our expectation is to be a four-time champion of the league and go down to Denver,” midfielder Rudy Solis said.
Familiar names, story
In a pleasant surprise for the Huskies, Cope actually has a battle for the starting goalie job. Clint Hervert would be the natural successor to Van Curan, but Jordy Coffey has transferred from the Vail Mountain School. While the latter is still working out the specifics of his eligibility under CHSAA rules, the Huskies look deep here.
“Both of those guys have had excellent training sessions, and to me if we had a game tomorrow, we could throw either one of them and we’d be great,” Cope said.
Not surprisingly, Battle Mountain has offensive firepower. Jair Molina returns after a a solid freshman campaign. Marco Escobar, Jack Sunderland, Patrick Perry and Aaron Born should also see time up front.
The Huskies have experience in the middle with Solis and Ricky Luevanos, both cogs of last year’s team.
“Ricky’s a great friend of mine. I like how he plays,” Solis said. “I think we can do great things in the middle. We can help move things forward and score more goals.”
With Cope possibly going to five midfielders in 2007 Davy DeChant, Marco Orduno, Ubaldo Trujillo, Patrick Baskins, Dalton Cassady and Gustav Phillipson will be in the mix.
In back, Battle Mountain has the luxury of returning Connor Tedstrom, who got extensive playing experience at the end of last season when Seibert got hurt in a game at Glenwood Springs. Tedstrom ended up starting the rest of the way, including three playoff games.
There’s a lot of brotherly love on defense. Charlie Tedstrom is there as well as David Gonzalez, the younger brother of Evie and Joel, complete with orange boots. Kalen Burnett, Julia Burnett’s younger brother, is there, along with Hugo Parra and Tyler Madison.
In Cope’s mind, Battle Mountain will be able to score. The questions will be with the defense and whoever emerges as the No. 1 goalie. If this is starting to sound familiar, it is. This is the exact situation the Huskies were in last year.
And that is the cue for the those who have been waiting in the wings during this championship run.
“At Battle Mountain, you train with the varsity for a year before you start playing for the varsity,” Cope said. “So hopefully, when the junior or senior year comes, they’re ready. We take a lot of pride in building a program and a team.”
The obstacle for Battle Mountain is that the Slope is likely getting really tired of the Huskies reign. The Huskies started the season with a tie against Summit and a loss to Steamboat Springs at home. After the latter, the Sailors celebrated with gusto, having toppled ” at least, temporarily ” the champs.
“That’s great,” Cope said. “You always want to be the ones setting the benchmark for everyone else to strive for. That carries a responsibility in training every day. Can we live up to that? We always use the names of other teams in training. ‘Are we training like Broomfield or are we training like a middle-tier team?'”
That training will be put to the test early. Battle Mountain opens at Summit County Sept. 4. The Huskies and Tigers are 1-1-1 against each other during the last three years and all three games have gone to overtime.
On Sept. 6, the Huskies open league play at archrival, Steamboat, in the first of two games against the Sailors in a span of just 12 days. Steamboat is in Eagle-Vail Sept. 18.
Glenwood Springs, as always, is in the mix, not to mention Eagle Valley, which seems on the rise.
“They know that good things are expected of them at Battle Mountain,” Cope said. “Our ambition every year is to be competitive and qualify for the playoffs. Qualifying for the playoffs for the 10th year in a row is huge. If we can be playing meaningful games at the end of October, that would be huge. If we could bring home a fourth straight trophy, that would be huge.”
And that would certainly require a huge picture.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.