Gore Rangers dispatch Falcons; Dawson next | VailDaily.com

Gore Rangers dispatch Falcons; Dawson next

Vail Mountain's Maddy Cooper (22) charges the net against Front Range Christian on Wednesday during the state semifinals at All-City Stadium in Denver. The Gore Rangers won, 5-1, and advanced to the finals on Tuesday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
James Mill | Special to the Daily |

DENVER — Bring on Dawson.

The Vail Mountain School soccer team made an emphatic statement on Wednesday afternoon at Denver’s All-City Stadium, pounding Front Range Christian, 5-1, during the first of two Class 2A semifinals. Meanwhile, the Dawson School dispatched Evangelical Christian, 2-1, to set up next week’s state final — Tuesday at 5 p.m. — at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

“It’s just an amazing experience. I’m so excited,” VMS sophomore Olivia Manula said. “We have new roster. It’s so good to experience it with new people. We’re just as excited for the journey ahead and playing as hard as possible, to be a better version of ourselves.”

This looks familiar

At Vail Mountain’s home away from home — the school’s had three state semifinal matches at All-City Stadium in the last year — the Gore Rangers (13-2) were all business from the start.

For the first 20 minutes, VMS was playing on the puree setting, which coach Bob Bandoni has desired all season.

It wasn’t a shock that Katie Alonzo was the first on the board. It was how. The junior one-timed a beautiful shot with her left foot for a 1-0 lead.

“I had some personal issues last game. Every shot I took was pretty off-frame and not off the right spot of my foot,” Alonzo said. “With a little help and some extra practice, it was a good one. But I’m excited for the next game.”

This will be a theme in Gore Rangers’ comments.

By the time the considerable orange-clad crowd had settled down, VMS was on the board again, courtesy of a jailbreak. Sydney Sappenfield got her foot on it and the Gore Rangers were up 2-0 at five minutes into the match.

“The ball was just bouncing around in the box,” Sapenfield said. The goalie was on the other side of the net. She really couldn’t tell where the ball was. I just hit it as hard as I could.

Anwyn Urquhart announced her presence in the 19th minute, and the orange express was on. As an added bonus after the game, Urquhart got to pose with one of Denver’s finest, wearing his hat. It’s a good look for the freshman.

Guarding Tess?

The story of the second half was twofold. The Vail Mountain School back line stymied brief uprisings from the Falcons. Olivia Giacco headed one off the line and Annie Blakslee also had a key clear.

On the other end of the field, Tess Johnson started working her magic. Emma Hall sprang the Nor-Am moguls champ for a breakaway. Not only was the goal a welcome sight, but Hall appeared no worse for wear after going down with a left-ankle injury during last week’s quarterfinals against Telluride.

Johnson was on the rampage down the right side again five minutes later and beautifully arched her shot to the far post.

Front Range Christian eventually got tired of her doing that, and received a card for rudely manhandling Johnson late in the game.

Papa and Vail Mountain School soccer

Yes, pardon the expression, it was a good result, but, there remains more work.

“After the first game of state on our home pitch, we felt as though we could play with much more fluency, much more integration, much faster. We felt like we hit a lot of those marks,” Bandoni said. “I also feel like we were able to keep the work rate really, really high. Our timing seems better. Characteristic of this team, we still leave this field, feeling like we can add.”

And this goes back to quotes from Manula and Alonzo. It’s not just the concept of revenge against Dawson on VMS’ mind nor the prospect of consecutive titles, nice as both would be. It’s Hemingway and his quote, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

“It’s about being better than our former selves — take it to next level,” Alonzo said. “We weren’t 100 percent satisfied with our play. There’s always more steps to be taken and more goals to be met.”

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.