Game day: Huskies vs. Spartans | VailDaily.com
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Game day: Huskies vs. Spartans

Daily file photo/Preston UtleyBattle Mountain's Lizzie Seibert celebrates after her goal in the 78th minute defeated Steamboat Springs last month. For all intents and purposes, the season begins today with Round 1 of the state playoffs against Greeley West at 3:30 p.m. at Freedom Park in Edwards.
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EDWARDS, Colorado ” Battle Mountain’s Lizzie Seibert was wearing a ski hat at Monday’s practice even through it was 70 degrees. Coach David Cope already had his traditional piece of folded paper with the scribbling of assorted lineups for game situations.

Assistant coach Jen Davin was playing her traditional “bad cop” role, motivating the Huskies. And Battle Mountain was doing drills suited to small spaces.

In all, it was a pretty standard playoff training session for the No. 9-ranked Huskies at Freedom Park in Edwards, where they’ll host No. 25 Greeley West today at 3:30 p.m. in Round 1 of the 4A state playoffs today.

Except …

The basic fact, fairly or unfairly, is that the previous of the regular season, which the Huskies handled to perfection, really doesn’t mean anything anymore. That, of course, is mentioned said by every team every season when the playoffs start.

But for Battle Mountain, it’s especially poignant. The Huskies have a combined record of 42-1-2 during the last three regular seasons. (The loss and the ties are to Steamboat Springs.) Yet it is a 1-2 record the last two postseasons that frames what is to come.

Or more succinctly, as Huskies senior Kelly VanHee put it Thursday in Glenwood Springs after the Huskies capped a perfect regular season, “Golden. That’s all I have to put in my head to get ready for the playoffs.”

It was nearly one year ago that No. 11 Golden came to Eagle County and eliminated the No. 6 Huskies, 5-0, in Round 2 of the 2007 playoffs.

“I want to prove that we can play and not get killed 5-0. Seriously, that really wrecked my pride,” Battle Mountain captain Emily LyBarger said. “This year, I think we have a stronger team than we did last year. We play better than we did last year. We know where everyone is which is an advantage as opposed to last year. And last year motivates us even more because we want to prove to CHSAA that we should have been (seeded) higher. That’s just motivation right there.”

Meet the Spartans

Perhaps then, it’s best that Battle Mountain starts its quest to create a new postseason legacy with Greeley West. The Spartans enter with a 7-5-3 mark, a very deceiving record, given that they play in the Northern League, one of the top circuits in 4A.

The North has produced two state champions in the last four years (Greeley West in 2004 and Broomfield in 2006), and has four teams in the top 11 of this year’s draw (No. 1 Silver Creek, No. 4 Broomfield, No. 5 Fossil Ridge and No. 11 Niwot).

“It obviously helps that we have played a good schedule and a tough schedule, one of the toughest schedules in the state,” Spartans coach Mike Lordemann said. “It helps you this time of year to know what the top level of soccer is. You know the intensity you have to bring to a match and you have to play 80 minutes.”

Case in point was Greeley West’s season finale, a 1-0 loss at No. 1 Silver Creek.

“One of the things we talked about before Silver Creek was that we wanted to walk out of that game with more confidence than we came in with,” Lordemann said. “A loss is still a loss, but I think our girls realized after the match that we can play with anybody in the state.”

So with that in mind, despite a long bus ride, don’t expect the Spartans to be intimidated by Battle Mountain’s 15-0 record.

On paper, Greeley West does not overwhelm one with offense. Twenty-seven of the Spartans’ 36 goals this season came against Windsor, Sterling and Fort Morgan, the Northern League’s bottom dwellers.

What Greeley West does do well is play defense.

“One of the very first things we did back in (the preseason) was talk about, “When you get to the playoffs, you don’t win, 5-4 or 6-1. It’s 2-1 or 1-0,'” Lordemann said. “The better you play in back, the better you play defense, the better chance you have. I don’t know if that makes us a defensive-oriented team or not, but we pride ourselves on defense.”

Questions

And that makes today’s game an intriguing one. Battle Mountain would love to get into a 5-4 shootout-style game with Greeley West, given its offensive firepower.

There’s Marisa Ammaturo with 25 goals and 17 assists, Seibert at 21-12 and LyBarger (14-6), and a host of other Huskies who will be starting today who are proficient at finding the net.

That makes the first key ” who will dictate tempo? And if Battle Mountain does, what happens when Greeley West likely stymies the Huskies’ early attacks?

That’s where Battle Mountain’s 1-0 win against Steamboat Springs last month with Seibert scoring in the 78th minute enters the discussion.

“The thing we learned from that was that a game can go a long time and can be decided in our favor,” Cope said. “The good thing was we kept plugging away and still did the things we work on in training every day, and eventually, the goal came from that. That’s patience, belief and all those things.”

Then there’s physical play. Battle Mountain sees it a bit in the Slope, but Front Range teams are another deal all together.

“Any time you play Front Range teams it’s more physical than it is in our league, so the girls just need to be prepared for that, and prepared to ride through tackles and be prepared to dust themselves off after fouls,” Cope said. “They’ll try to rattle players. They’ll try to rattle Marisa.”

Will the Spartans mark Ammaturo or Seibert or LyBarger? How tested is Battle Mountain’s defense? It’s all grist for the pregame mill.

Home turf

One definite positive is home turf. The Huskies haven’t lost at Freedom Park since May 2006, a 2-0 loss to Liberty in Round 1 of the playoffs. The ill-fated Golden game of 2007 was actually at the Vail Mountain School.

“It makes us super-comfortable, like how the turf is and everyone’s backing us,” Seibert said. “I just want to play well for them.”

And there’s always a team’s postseason legacy.

“I just want to get to at least the quarterfinals,” Ammaturo, a sophomore, said. “I think this will be our best team while I am in high school. I think this year is a good year to do it. It’s the best feeling to prove someone wrong.”

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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