Having fun, Battle Mountain soccer tops Montrose
Huskies roll, 7-2; Durango next
EDWARDS — Have fun, or else.
Welcome to Battle Mountain soccer’s predicament. The expectations, as always, are high for the Huskies. They went 13-2-1 last season, won their fourth league 4A Slope title in a row, beat two Class 4A semifinalists (Glenwood Springs and The Classical Academy), yet lost in an upset during the first round of the playoffs.
At the same time, it is just a game, one which the Huskies have loved since they were tots. It’s easiest to play well — and avoid the pressures of expectation — when a team is having fun.
“To a large extent, we operate without a safety net,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “Because of all the past success, we don’t have a lot of margin for error. That puts pressure on each group of kids coming in. That’s just a fact of life playing for this team.
“Tonight, we had a lot of players making their first varsity start and they’re seniors. They’ve worked for this. But we had it on our board (in the locker room), ‘Just have fun. Just enjoy the game. Do simple things early.'”
The Huskies did and they trounced Montrose, 7-2, to open the season on Friday night in fine style.
“Losing in the first round, we just had the motivation to work during the summer and make it further and win state,” said senior Dani Barajas, who started 2019 with a hat trick. “The loss against Kennedy made us stronger. It made me want to be a leader.”
Battle Mountain started to bury the 5-0 playoff loss to Kennedy last fall in a hurry. Senior Karsen Williams one-timed a header into the Montrose net on a beautiful feed from Barajas for a 1-0 lead in just the third minute.
Montrose responded in the same minute with a Bryan Delgado score off a free-kick restart. That’s an organization issue on defense, one that Cope said could quickly be fixed.
The Huskies atoned by scoring three more times during the first 18 minutes to take a commanding 4-1 lead. Kevin Chavez from Barajas gave the Huskies the lead for good. Those two could well be a nice scoring combination this season.
Chavez got himself in the goal column for a 3-1 advantage. Barajas scored his second of the game in the 18th minute and the Huskies were cruising.
Like Barajas’ second goal, Trevino Twiss pressured the Montrose defense for a turnover and rifled his shot into the net in the second half. Josh Keiser to Chavez and Barajas unassisted capped the rout.
“We were explosive, I thought,” Cope said. “We went forward with pace. We pressured the ball. When we lost the ball, we got it back.”
Huskies are Cavaliers?
For those who haven’s taken Huskies Soccer 101 — Kathleen Cope is the coach’s better half, and her family is from Virginia.
Yes, the topic of No. 16-seeded University of Maryland-Baltimore County’s upset win over No. 1 Virginia in the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament came up.
“When we lost that (playoff) game last year, I was really down,” David Cope said. “My father-in-law said, ‘At least you’re not the University of Virginia basketball coach.’ A 16 had never beaten a 1, and then they won the championship (in 2019). We’ve been talking with our guys about that. You can turn a playoff loss into a huge motivation.”
Toward that end, the Huskies host Durango today at 1 p.m. in another big nonconference matchup.
“We’ve all been playing soccer since we’ve been little,” Barajas said. “Having fun is playing with your friends. You’re family. Everyone’s been working hard. We have three people for a spot, so there’s no spot guaranteed for anyone. The team knows you have to work hard.”