Greeks, er, Huskies aim for Slope title
Battle Mountain booters look to take the next stepBy Chris FreudDaily Sports EditorEAGLE-VAIL – Since 1998, the Vail Mountain School soccer team has adopted The Netherlands as a team to emulate, going so far as to wear Dutch orange in postseason games.This year, Battle Mountain would like to be like Greece, the improbable champion of the Euro 2004 Tournament this summer. “That’s the beauty of football,” a quote from Greece’s coach, Otto Rehhagel, adorns the Huskies’ practice T-shirts.”I think there’s a big lesson in it for our kids because Greece was a good team and had done some things in the European Tournament,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “They had beaten some good teams in qualifying, like Spain. But in the actual finals, they had never won a game. Then, they came out with a spirited effort. They won the tournament. “And, our boys should look to that as inspiration. Around the state, we have a reputation as a good team that has beaten some good teams. But, we’ve never made a big impact on the state level. That’s something, I think, our guys should be looking at as the next step.”
One of the good teams Battle Mountain beat last year was Steamboat Springs. The Huskies dominated the Sailors in a 2-0 win, Battle Mountain’s first win against Steamboat since 1992. That put the Huskies into the a home state-seeding game against Canyon City, which they won, 5-1, before losing to No. 1 Broomfield in the 4A state playoffs.The 4A SlopeThe Steamboat win was huge, but Cope noted Tuesday that it was actually Rifle who won the league last year.”Rifle beat us twice by five combined goals and we didn’t score a goal against them,” Cope said. “So, it’s going to be really important that we’re going to be physically able to play with Rifle and that we’re able to adapt to the small field when we go there. That’s a difficult place. So, if we perceive ourselves as among the elite in the conference, then we’ve got to be able to beat Rifle, Glenwood and Steamboat and also take care of business with the games we’re supposed to win like the Moffats and Palisades.”It figures that Battle Mountain, Rifle and Steamboat will be battling it out all season for the 4A Slope title. Glenwood Springs had a down year last season and could likely bounce back. Moffat County and Palisade figure to bring up the rear.Then there is the 4A Slope’s newest entry. Delta has morphed into Paonia and is playing 3A. Enter Eagle Valley, a wild card in the race. For the first time since 1999, Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley will be meeting on the pitch in a conference game.
“It’s great. We rather travel to Eagle Valley than to Delta,” Cope said with a smile. “To have a local rivalry, the two games that mean something, it’s exciting for everybody. Lots of the kids play together at the club level. It’s what high school sports is all about, having a local rivalry and measuring yourself up against them.” “It’s going to be exciting,” Huskies senior Andy Banner said. “It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be a battle, a good test.”Lots of experienceBattle Mountain brings back a lot of talent from last year’s team which went 8-4 in the Slope and 10-7 overall.”I think (Steamboat) gave us a lot of confidence because we had a strong squad last year and we only lost three seniors,” senior Dane Jacobs said. “We’re bringing a strong team and we all played well last year, so we should have a good year.”There’s a fierce battle in net between incumbent, Joel Gonzales, and Josh Ruark, D.J. Vancuren and Deacon Maloney. Whoever emerges will benefit from a strong back line. Connor Drumm, who logged the most minutes of any Husky last season, anchors the group. There’s senior Harrison Brown, Everado Gonzales, hockey-import Brad Myers and Mike Scijliano. If Ruark doesn’t end up between the pipes, he will see time in back.
Seniors Dane Jacobs and Chris Gavin (from … Kentucky) are back at midfield. Also look for Kyle Moore, Isaac Anderson and Eric Garcia there.The Huskies do not lack for firepower up front. Andy Banner, Antonio Aparacio, Edgar Hernandez, Gustavo Bronfield and Jose Pavon give Cope plenty of choices.”Everybody who is returning has improved 100 percent,” Banner said. “Every person is like a different player.”Just for kicksBattle Mountain’s nonconference schedule is a bear. The Huskies open at home against 5A playoff-qualifier Grand Junction Central on Sept. 2. Summit (Sept. 21) and Alexander Dawson (Oct. 14) both qualified for the 4A playoffs last year. … Battle Mountain will know where it stands early in the season. The Huskies host Rifle and Steamboat back-to-back on Sept. 11 and Sept. 14, respectively. … Homecoming for soccer is Oct. 2 vs. Palisade. … Battle Mountain last won a soccer league title in 1992. Cope was an assistant coach on that team.Chris Freud is the sports editor of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614, or via email@example.com.