Huskies host Sailors today |

Huskies host Sailors today

Daily file photo/Dominique Taylor Steamboat Springs' Kelly Labor, right, fights with Battle Mountain's Julia Burnett during last year's 1-1 tie in Edwards. While the Sailors, the four-time defending Slope champions, no longer have Labor for today's game at 4 p.m. at Freedom Park, the Huskies will be trying to beat Steamboat for the first time in the program's history.

EAGLE-VAIL – Both teams all say the right things.They both talk about taking it one game at a time. They always talk about measuring their quality of play instead of measuring the margin of victory against opponents and so on.Yet in doing so, they really don’t fool anybody. Come fall or spring, Battle Mountain and Steamboat Springs soccer look for each other on the schedule and are counting down the days toward their much-anticipated meetings.”There’s always excitement,” Huskies midfielder Emily LyBarger said. “Whenever I get the schedule I look where Steamboat is and when we’ll be playing. We know we have to take it one game at a time, but in the back of my mind, it’s always, “Two more games. One more game.'””We’re just as excited,” Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said. “Any week, boys or girls, you look at your calendar and Battle Mountain’s on there, that’s always exciting. It will be a great game. We’re going into it, assuming nothing and expecting everything. It’s going to be awesome.”Today’s game at 4 p.m. at Freedom Park in Edwards is likely the biggest meeting on the girls’ side of the series. The visiting Sailors (2-0 in the Slope) are 12-0-2 against the Huskies dating back to 1998, and are the four-time defending league champs. Battle Mountain (3-0) is ranked No. 9 in the state and looking finally to unseat their archrivals.Is this the year?Battle Mountain has doubtless been licking its chops over this one since last year’s 1-0 loss at Steamboat on a penalty kick. The Sailors have owned Battle Mountain, and until the last two seasons, in a rather lopsided fashion.The Huskies went 13-1-1 during the regular season in 2006. The loss and the tie (1-1 in Edwards) came at the hands of Steamboat. Huskies coach David Cope joked after the tie, “Huskies win, 1-1.”All joking aside, the Huskies seemed to have closed the gap. On the other hand, as Yankee and Red Sox fans know, it isn’t a rivalry until both teams can actually beat each other.

Cope and Bohlmann have experienced this pattern when coaching their respective boys’ teams in the fall. Until 2002, the Steamboat boys had run all over Battle Mountain, and then the Huskies put up a 2-2 tie against the Sailors late that year. The following fall, Battle Mountain finally beat the Sailors, 2-0, and took control of the series.”I think there are a lot of parallels,” Cope said. “It takes time for players to fit into a system, find the right personnel and then to have belief. That belief comes over time. The table is set, but it’s too easy to look at the slope of the line, and say, ‘Now we deserve it.’ You still have to go and earn it and the last step is the hardest one.”New facesAnother reason for optimism is that Steamboat’s Kelly Labor is now at Regis University and soon to be transferring to UNLV. Labor was a great player for the Sailors and a certified Huskies-killer every time they crossed paths.The Huskies will not miss seeing her on the pitch today, as well as goalie Kirsten Ryan and last year’s crew of senior Sailors.”You can’t look at who left the other team, and who came back,” Cope said. “That program has had the tradition of quality and players coming into replace other players. Those girls have been training against that level of competitiveness every day for the three years they’ve been playing there. When you have players who bring such a level of competitiveness and intensity every day, it can’t help but make the players around them better. They’re going to have a good team.””It was a tremendous group. There were probably eight of those players who were very active within the varsity team for the past three years,” said Bohlmann noting that anywhere from two to four players on this year’s roster got significant playing time last year. “Everybody else who’s playing has gotten is has gotten past like, ‘We’re playing in the shadow of this tremendous group that graduated last year.’ Now, it’s, ‘We’re here to prove that we have more than eight or nine soccer players in Steamboat Springs. We’re going to show what we have,'”And that should certainly ring a bell for Cope and Battle Mountain. Coming into last fall, the Battle Mountain boys lost nine seniors after winning its second consecutive league title. The Huskies, with a cast that had been playing in the shadows of bigger names, lost their first league game to Steamboat – who else – and then promptly rolled to another Slope crown.Is it possible that Bohlmann is summoning the spirits of D.J. Van Curan, Jose Pavon and Eric Garcia?A higher level

However one interprets history, both teams are looking forward to an even contest. Both the Sailors and Huskies have had no problem with their Slope competition.Both team’s know they can run onto the ball and score at will against most teams in the league, but not against each other.”We’re definitely going to have to play faster,” LyBarger said. “We’ll also have to think about our tactical ability and focus on our first touch, knowing that Steamboat’s going to be on our tail the whole game and not letting us breath. We need to stay calm and collected.”Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or****Glance Sailors vs. HuskiesIn the spring, it’s called Steamboat-Battle Mountain soccer for a reason. The Sailors come first. Since 1998, Steamboat is 12-0-2 against the Huskies. A look at the results by year:1998Tie, 1-11999No meeting

2000Steamboat, 5-02001Steamboat, 5-1 and 2-02002Steamboat, 2-0 and 5-02003Steamboat, 4-1 and 8-02004Steamboat, 5-1 and 7-22005Steamboat, 3-0 and 1-02006Tie 1-1Steamboat, 1-0Note: In 1998, the teams met once as 3A Slope members, and 2000’s encounter was nonconference. In 2001, Battle Mountain moved up to the 4A Slope and the two teams started playing twice per season.

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