Huskies soccer eyes playoff run
EDWARDS ” Battle Mountain girls soccer lost 125 career goals last spring to graduation, but finding offense for the upcoming season doesn’t seem to be a concern.
As the Huskies prepare to defend their 4A Slope championship, their offense remains abundant, despite the departure of the dynamic duo of Kelsey Sanders and Julia Burnett. All eyes will be on the defense and how it performs come playoff time.
While the season begins Tuesday at Freedom Park in Edwards against Eagle Valley at 3 p.m., the Huskies, favorites to repeat in the Slope, will likely measure their success by the length of their state-playoff run.
“That is the challenge,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “With every team, there are logical steps where you look at the previous couple of years. Where logically should we be? For this team, obviously, it is the playoffs. Having said that, we play Eagle Valley on Tuesday. We know they’ll have the best game of the year when they play us.”
The Huskies have been superb during the regular season the last two springs. They are a combined 27-1-2. The playoffs have been another story. In 2006, the No. 15 Huskies lost to Liberty in Edwards in the first round. Last year, Battle Mountain blew out Denver South, 4-0 in the first round, but was then thumped by Golden, 5-0, on the pseudo-home turf of the Vail Mountain School.
It serves as motivation.
“We just think about last year, what we did wrong and what we did well, and work on that in the games,” senior Jamie Lee Roberts said. “We’re going to take steps to get better that way.”
To address a defense which was exposed last May, the Huskies have a mixture of newcomers and veterans. Maddy Trtnj and Allison Edwards will compete for the goalie duties.
Along the backline will be Roberts, McKenzie Stevens, Kelly VanHee as well as Stephanie Woodruff and Sydney Idzakowski. That’s two all-state skiers in Roberts and VanHee, and a hockey blueliner in Stevens.
“We’ve got great athletes in the back,” Cope said. “We’re likely to start at least three phenomenal athletes in the back. We’ll be pretty athletic in those positions. If we can get some steady goalkeeping and communication in the back, it could be pretty solid.”
Because Battle Mountain will likely dominate the flow of play league play, which makes up 14 of its 15 regular-season games, the Huskies’ defense will have to work on its own to improve as a unit.
“You obviously have to stay positive about it,” said VanHee, who will show her versatility by moving between fullback and midfield. “In my point of view, I don’t think that we’re behind as far as defense. I think we’re going to have a strong of a defense as we did last year. We have Maddy as good goalie contender and I think she’s going to do great. Sydney (Nichols) was a great player, but we’re going to find a great player to replace her.”
Who was last year’s 4A Slope Player of the Year? In an astute pick, the league’s coaches selected not Sanders or Burnett, but Emily LyBarger, who returns as the team’s starting midfielder.
The senior had 11 goals and 17 assists last season and anchors a potent attack. Lizzie Siebert (eight goals, two helpers) and Madelyn LyBarger return after outstanding freshman campaigns. Kelsey Plath is back along with Kaya Telles. Woodruff will also split time between the back row and this unit.
Up front, the Huskies have another freshman phenom back in Marissa Ammaturo, who logged four goals and 11 assists in 2007. There’s Jenny Banner, a familiar name to Battle Mountain soccer fans. Her older brother Andy set the boys’ single-season scoring record in 2004. Cope expects Jenny to have a big year, though the No. 10 jersey will stay in the VanHee family.
Rachel Gordon and Telles will also see time up front.
While playoff performance will be the standard by which the Huskies are measured, the regular season starts quickly. Battle Mountain starts with home games Tuesday and Thursday against Eagle Valley and Summit County, followed by a road trip to Steamboat Springs, the Huskies’ longtime rival, Saturday.
“There’s a lot of immediacy about next week,” Cope said. “The season starts off right away with a bang.”
“It’s definitely hard to have three games right off the bat,” VanHee said. “But I think we’ve had pretty intense practices and I think our fitness is going to be surprisingly high. We may have a couple surprises with our touch, but on the whole, we’re in pretty good shape.”
Meanwhile, Battle Mountain enters the season as defending Slope champions, a new role for the team.
“Act as if you’re the champions,” Cope said. “It’s not as if the team is inheriting a championship. A lot of these girls played a huge part in it. It will be interesting to see. We’re trying to avoid complacency. We’re trying to put a little more pressure on us each day in training to maybe be better prepared for the playoffs.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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