Huskies edge Sailors for sweep
EDWARDS, Colorado ” A tie would have been fine in the standings for Battle Mountain girls soccer against Steamboat Springs Tuesday afternoon.
“Even tying away at their house (last year, 0-0), I was disappointed,” Huskies senior midfielder Emily LyBarger said.
The good news for the Huskies was that coaches David Cope and Jen Davin had decided before the game that in the event the game was close that they would play for the win, not the draw.
“We just felt like the kids deserved the chance to go for the win,” Cope said.
With 20 minutes left in a scoreless game, Cope put an extra striker ” Josie Tuthill on in place of fullback McKenzie Stevens, and in the 79th minute, Kelly VanHee fed a cross to Lizzie Seibert and Battle Mountain came away with a dramatic 1-0 win.
With the victory, the Huskies got their first season sweep of the Sailors ” Battle Mountain won at Steamboat Springs, 2-0, last month “took a very large step toward defending their Slope championship and opened the door for a possible 15-0 regular season.
“When it comes to Steamboat, the standings don’t matter,” VanHee, a senior, said. “It’s the competition that matters between us and them. Knowing that we have two wins against Steamboat under our belt, knowing that graduating is the most amazing feeling ever.”
“I’m at like a gazillion feet right now. I’m this high,” LyBarger said. “No one can reach me.”
Battle Mountain moved to 8-0 in league and 9-0 overall, while Steamboat dropped to 7-3-1.
“You have to throw out a huge pat on the back to both groups. It was a battle,” Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann said. “They dealt with the conditions really well. It’s fun to see when two teams battle like that. Specifically for our group, we are really proud of the way they responded.”
While Battle Mountain had the majority of opportunities, Steamboat’s flat-four defensive formation, stymied the Huskies’ potent offense.
“Our back four were heroic,” Bohlmann said of Courtney Garth, Hope Scott, Carly Earp and Shelby Struble.
The Huskies had been averaging six goals per game going into Tuesday’s match.
“I think maybe we were trying to push the ball through too many times and it was running away from us, instead of playing to our girls’ feet and letting them turn,” Cope said. “I think we had some good shots. I think we forced some good saves from their keeper. They were playing deep. There were numbers in front of us and not much space between their team (and the goal). We had to solve it.”
Both teams had to contend with a howling wind which blew over Freedom Park more from the south than the usual western direction. Even with the aid of the wind during the second half, Battle Mountain was trying to play the ball on the ground to its players’ feet.
“Trying would be the operative word,” LyBarger joked.
As the clock was waning, Battle Mountain threw everyone up. As it turned out, VanHee, the right fullback, made the deciding run all the way down to Steamboat’s end and crossed it to Seibert for the game-winner.
“I was lucky to be there and finish it,” Seibert said, while standing next to LyBarger and VanHee. “It was all them. I was right there. I can’t even explain it. I’m just so happy for you guys. If I had missed, I don’t know what I would have done.”
“All credit to Lizzie. She’s a very technical player,” Cope said. “If you stab or lunge at that, it goes over (the crossbar). Lizzie, you could see her shoulders set. She had her knee over the ball and she put it right in. That’s not a tap-in because Kelly shot that ball with some pace.”
While understandably disappointed, the Sailors could take a lot out of Tuesday’s match. Steamboat was coming off a tough 3-2 loss at Glenwood Springs and had its Saturday game against Palisade postponed. On top of that, Bohlmann said, the Sailors did not have a good training session Monday night.
All things considered, Bohlmann was pleased with the way his team improved against Battle Mountain from the two teams’ meeting in March.
“The difference up in Steamboat was we had nothing to speak of in the attack,” the coach said. “We were talked a lot about changing up our rhythm and to get forward a little more. The first half, I thought we were good at it. We created some opportunities and it was a pretty even game. Obviously, that changed in the second half. Any time you get progression against a group like Battle Mountain, you have to walk away happy.”
No motivation needed
The Sailors were meant to have a make-up with Palisade Thursday, but that’s off. So Steamboat heads to Rifle Saturday at 11 a.m.
“We need to respond coming off two losses in a row,” Bohlmann said. “That’s the start of our spring break. Our heads have to be in that game. I know they will be. It’s a strong group of girls. The loss is tough. Sometimes, you just can’t measure in wins and losses.”
Meanwhile, the Huskies have an interesting situation. They head to Gypsum Saturday for their second meeting of the season with Eagle Valley. While this is normally not a spirited rivalry in the spring as the teams are on the opposite end of Slope standings, the Huskies have a little bulletin board material, courtesy of Devils coach Francois Nanin.
“The game the (Western Slope) is playing is hockey soccer, the body before the ball,” Nanin said after his team lost to Steamboat, 8-0, on April 5. “Steamboat is a team that plays soccer. They play the ball. They push you, maybe, but the play they ball first. This is the best team. They have been in the playoffs the last five years, and they deserve it. There are teams, Battle Mountain and others in the (league), who are more aggressive, who are more athletic maybe, but technically (Steamboat) is the best team.”
While Nanin was complimenting Steamboat’s style, Battle Mountain took exception to the coach’s assertion that the Sailors were the best team in the league. Looking ahead to Saturday’s game Cope was trying to tamp things down.
“We’re very proud of the honest effort our kids put in every day,” Cope said. “We don’t take for granted coming out here and earning results. Our girls work hard for it. I just would rather hand out praise. Steamboat’s a great team as well. I agree. But I think Battle Mountain can play.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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