Battle Mountain Huskies get lead and hold it vs Eagle Valley Devils
GYPSUM — Can the sixth match of a soccer season played in March be a must-win situation?
Battle Mountain girls soccer certainly felt that way during Thursday, March 22’s visit to Eagle Valley, and came away with a 4-1 victory.
“I didn’t want to say that to the girls, but you had a feeling was going to put one team in a tough position to qualify for the playoffs,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “More importantly than that, we needed a game where the girls played with confidence, knock the ball around without the feeling that every possession could decide the game.”
Whether or not Thursday’s game was make-or-break proposition, the Huskies certainly felt a sense of urgency, wanting to snap a two-game skid. Battle Mountain scored two goals during the 14th minute.
“It’s hard to lose multiple games in a row,” Huskies defender Claire Krueger said. “This was a game we had to win. This was our game. We came into with the attitude — this is ours. We need to win.”
In the five games before Thursday’s tilt, Battle Mountain has actually scored the first goal of a match twice (D’Evelyn and Glenwood Springs). But the Huskies camp has felt like it’s been playing most of the season from behind.
So there was much merriment involved when the team scored twice early against Eagle Valley.
Sophomore Rayna Kenney is new to the team, but knows on corner kicks it’s probably a good idea to find Audrey Teague in the box. It was a beautiful serve and another header finish, Teague’s third using her noggin this spring.
Kenney, who hails from Florida, is getting quite comfortable in the mountains.
“Altitude has definitely been a tough situation, but I’m getting used to it,” Kenney said. “The girls, I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
Before Huskies fans stopped cheering the first goal, Avery Weaver pounced on a loose ball and scored for a 2-0 lead. Battle Mountain would not be playing comeback soccer on Thursday.
However, as has been the tendency this season, the Huskies did allow a goal shortly after scoring, as Eagle Valley’s Jesse Raitt scored three minutes later.
“It caught us off guard. I’m glad that we were able to come back and respond,” Devils coach Maggie Sherman said. “But it set us back. I think we’re still right in there. There still some things we need to fix. We’re always working on getting better.”
The rest of the game was the Gabby Caballero Show. The freshman started the season out of the starting lineup, but is making a good case that her name should be on Cope’s folded paper on game days.
She had the game-winner against Summit County and an equalizer against Glenwood Springs. Two more against Eagle Valley, including one on a helper from Sadie Fitzgerald, doesn’t hurt the cause.
“When you score two goals for the Huskies, you’re likely to start the next game,” Cope joked.
So was it a must win for both teams? It depends on one’s perspective. Had the Huskies lost, they would have been 1-3 in league with losses to teams that would have been ahead of them in the 4A Slope standings in the hypothetical scenario.
That would not have been good.
(Yes, that’s the same amount of insight as Cope saying Caballero might start against Palisade on Saturday, March 31.)
The Western Slope’s top two teams at the end of the season get playoff berths, regardless of the rating-percentage index, aka RPI. After missing the playoffs last season, the Huskies want to return to the dance and finishing in the top two does that. At 2-2 in the Slope (2-3-1 overall), getting one of those automatic berths is more likely.
It should be noted that Eagle Valley (1-2, 1-3) is earlier in its schedule and suffered only its second league loss. Also, the Devils finished third in the league last spring and made the postseason via RPI, so it’s not panic time yet in Gypsum.
Eagle Valley’s next game is at the Vail Mountain School on Saturday, March 24.
Every person who has ever strapped into a board owes a debt of gratitude to Burton.