Gore Rangers end season on winning note
EAST VAIL – The Gore Rangers did everything in their power to play one more game at The Bob. Following a 2-1 victory over Paonia Tuesday at The Bob, the Vail Mountain soccer team waited to see if Colorado Rocky Mountain School and Roaring Fork played to a draw, the only result that would thrust the Gore Rangers into the postseason.But it wasn’t to be. The orange jerseys Vail Mountain dons in the playoffs won’t make it out of the boxes this year, as CRMS beat Rifle, 3-2.”It is what is it,” said Vail Mountain coach Bob Bandoni. “With this group, I would have loved to extend the season for three more months.”Coming into the game, the Gore Rangers knew they had a slim chance of playing again, but they still played a passionate game, controlling the tempo of play from the kickoff. Max Avery put the Gore Rangers up 1-0 in the first half, and Ruben Saucedo slammed home a goal in the 54th minute to break a 1-1 tie, and seal the victory.”We were comfortable throughout the game,” Bandoni said. “We knew we needed the win.”
After Paonia tied the game early in the second half, Vail Mountain had some trouble putting shots on net from deep in the Paonia end.”It tells us something still needs to be refined,” Bandoni said, referring to what he calls “the classic finish within 10 yards of the goal.”The ever-elusive finish did finally come off the foot of Saucedo deep in the Paonia box. Off an Avery corner kick, the ball bounced through the hands of Paonia goalkeeper Tyler Anderson, and moments later landed in front of Saucedo.Along with giving the Gore Rangers the lead, the goal assuaged a bit of fear that was building in some players.”It was pretty frightening for a while, but we had plenty of shots, and I was confident we were going to get out of it,” said James Thorne.When the final whistle blew, Vail Mountain had taken more than 35 shots, 11 of which landed on net, and a handful of which were blocked by Paonia defenders. Vail Mountain goalkeeper Jordy Coffey had four saves in the winning effort.Keeping it close
In the later part of the second half, Vail Mountain maintained possession of the ball, but Paonia still threatened.”We talked about this at halftime,” Bandoni said. “These games can be dangerous because you can get lulled into controlling the ball on your side of the field, and all of a sudden, an errant pass results in a cleared ball and a goal.”It wasn’t an errant Gore Rangers’ pass, but a long Eagles’ clearing pass that set up Paonia’s goal. Kevin Hernandez received the long pass, raced by a Vail Mountain defender and sent a shot on net.A diving Coffey got his hands on the ball, but to no avail as the Eagles’ Billy Mitchell was there to put the ball into the empty net.That would be the only shot on net the Eagles managed for the rest of the game, as the Gore Rangers attack, led by Avery, took over.”Max controlled the middle of the field and managed the pace well, swinging the ball from flank to flank,” Bandoni said. “He was dangerous the whole game.”Avery showed his accuracy with the ball in the first half, netting a goal from 10 yards outside the box. After Jackson Higgins hit the post on a shot, the ball made its way to a well-positioned Avery, who slammed a shot beyond the reach of Anderson.The action in the second half took its toll on the Vail Mountain captain.
“I was exhausted,” Avery said. “I took more corner kicks in this game than other games, which was because we kept pressuring them in the box.”Final fourFor seniors Avery, Thorne, Bobby LeGaye and Joel Migchelbrink, Tuesday’s contest marked the end of their Vail Mountain soccer careers. All four were impressed with the team’s improvement over the season.”We really grew and came a lot farther than I thought we would,” said LeGaye.This year’s roster looked a bit different than last year’s, but the team racked up many impressive wins.”We beat Salida,” Migchelbrink said of the team’s stunning defeat of the defending State champions, Salida, 3-1. “We lost 10 starters, but we came back and posted a decent season.”In the place of last year’s departed seniors, a slew of freshman logged many minutes on the field.
“For us to play as many freshman as we did, and for them to be as effective as they are on the field is a healthy sign of the culture of the program,” Bandoni said.Early in the season, the young Gore Rangers had some trouble working together, but by mid-year the team resembled a patented Bandoni squad, one that plays with, well, synergy.”There is a real sense of accomplishment, a sense of camaraderie within the group,” Bandoni said.The Gore Rangers will return the core of its team next year, and may see some familiar faces at The Bob on a random Tuesday afternoon.”I may show up,” Avery said. “You never know.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado