Huskies lead soccer honor roll with six
If there is a theme to Battle Mountain soccer, it’s themes themselves.
The program’s leader, David Cope, has always been big on themes to the point of pondering that the different routes, due to the gas-line construction on Highway 6, he had to take to go to work from his home in Eagle-Vail to the school in Edwards was perhaps a metaphor for how his squad took a different path to its second-consecutive 4A Slope crown this year.
Hey, why not?
And the theme for the Huskies rather large postseason-awards contingent is that that it’s young bunch. Five of the six honorees return next year.
“Nice theme there,” Cope joked.
Joe LyBarger, Roberto Diaz, and Heivan Garcia garnered all-league honors. That would be junior, sophomore and junior. LyBarger is also a second-team all-state selection, while Garcia nabbed honorable-mention all-state.
Bryan Aubel, the only senior, Gunnar Wilson and Christian Espinoza landed the Slope honorable-mention roles. And Cope and his counterpart and friend at Steamboat Springs, Rob Bohlmann, shared Coach of the Year honors. Both are young at heart and will be back next season as well, so as to keep on theme.
LyBarger had a nice bounce-back season in 2011, after falling off the depth chart in 2010. He and Garcia ended up being the team’s leading scorers, leading an extremely-diverse bunch.
“I think he had a little sophomore slump. Maybe things came a little easy to him,” Cope said. “This year, he was great. He played a lot of different roles. He scored. He assisted. He took on a leadership role.”
And a solid postseason offensively got him second-team all-state honors. On a familial note, Joe is the fourth LyBarger to earn some form of first-team all-league.
Like LyBarger, Diaz played multiple roles for the Huskies. He played center back as well has several positions in the midfield. Perhaps the best tribute to the sophomore was the expression, “Diaz never loses.” If the team was engaged in a competitive drill in practice, you wanted to be Diaz’s team because of his drive.
Garcia had the knack for not only the big goal, but the eye-popping score. Fast? No. Intimidating? Not really. But if it’s a big game, the kid scores. (See Cheyenne Mountain, archrival Steamboat as well as both of Battle Mountain’s playoff wins.)
“The next step for him is to do that against all teams,” Cope said. “If he can become more consistent, he can become one of the greatest scorers we’ve ever had.”
Battle Mountain allowed all of 21 goals in 18 games, so it’s very appropriate that the unit got acknowledged in all-league awards. In addition to Diaz, Wilson and Aubel got honorable-mention nods for the back line. Cope called them “the bookends” to his defense with Diaz and Erick Briones. Strong play from all four allowed the Huskies to move up players into the attack to come from behind, which became a specialty for Battle Mountain in 2011.
A team’s best defender is its goalie and that would be Espinoza. He emerged from a battle for the position as the team’s clear No. 1 and earned his spurs with brilliant performances down the stretch.
Cope shared a part of Coach of the Year in the league, and is his wont shared the credit with everyone from player to his staff of Jose Alfredo Valasquez, Scott Canepa, Allison O’Neill and Kyle Mercer.
All-league for Eagle Valley soccer? An easy pick.
Senior Martin Vasquez was a standout from start to finish for the Devils.
“His best quality was that he could play any position as well as anyone else,” Devils coach Jason Rittmiller said. “He could shoot up front. He could play defense. He probably would have been a good goalie if we tried him there.”
Rittmiller also called Vasquez the kind of player that “if you get another one of him in 10 years, you’d be lucky.”
Seniors Kevin and Nestor Escobar earned honorable mentions for their offensive prowess. Western Slope coaches will not mourn their graduation.
The cult of the goalie continues at the Vail Mountain School. From Aaron Vandeford to Tyler Croke to Michael Busenhart to Sean Minett, the torch is passed to William Sterett.
The sophomore keeper is all-league for the Gore Rangers.
“We see him as a high-level athlete who matches that ability with work ethic and emotion,” VMS coach Bob Bandoni said. “So to have that recognized at such a young age and see that authenticity is rewarding.”
It’s also rewarding because Sterett missed games with a concussion and three broken ribs at different points in the season.
Paco Holguin picked up an honorable mention for his work ethic, a sign which bodes well for basketball season.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.