In a league of their own
They laugh about it now, but at the outset of their last soccer season at Battle Mountain, things weren’t looking up for seniors Keegan Garnsey, Heidi Lauterbach and Lauren Arnold.The trio, which had suffered through three straight losing seasons and two coaching changes since their freshmen year, were asked to start over once more when boys coach Dave Cope was named the new girls coach.To make things tougher, the team opened up its season with back-to-back nonconference losses to Fruita Monument and Grand Junction Central, in which they were outscored, 9-0.From the outside, it looked like the Huskies were inclined to suffer through another 3-win season again, averred to a losing mentality regardless of who was guiding the team. Losing breeds losing, and the Huskies were losers. Or, so it seemed.On the inside, Cope knew that things didn’t have to stay the same. He could sense that the team was capable – and hungry – but he also knew that nothing could happen unless his nine seniors bought in, most importantly the big three of Garnsey, Lauterbach and Arnold. But, he could also feel the hesitance among them, and could understand the wariness to give fully of themselves. He knew that giving so much in the past only made the pain of losing that much harder to bear. So why trust again? Why sacrifice? Why believe?”It was not a given thing, with it being the last semester of their senior year, that these girls were going to completely devote themselves to soccer,” Cope said. “I’ve known most of them since they were pretty little – both Keegan and Heidi – but I don’t really think we really knew each other. Coaching is a unique relationship. I think there were some mixed feelings amongst them, but it worked out great. I was really proud of the way they showed leadership for our team.””I thought it would be hard at first, starting over with another coach,” Arnold said. “But, he’s definitely the best coach I’ve had in high school.””We didn’t know really what it was going to be like,” Lauterbach said. “We weren’t sure we liked that he was going to be our coach.””But, once he started coaching, we liked him immediately,” Garnsey said. And, a breakthrough most definitely did come.
The start of somethingIn fact, it was Garnsey who put the first cracks into the wall. Three days after the G.J. Central game, the Huskies played rival Eagle Valley and Garnsey scored both goals in a hard-fought 2-2 tie.Then, in their 4A Slope opener on March 20 against Glenwood Springs, the Huskies took a sledge hammer to the perception that they would be the same old Battle Mountain team of years past. They won, 3-0.Then, again at Moffat 10 days later by a score of 6-0.Then again. And again. And again.When the Huskies finally did lose their last game of the season – a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat to Evergreen in a postseason state-qualifying game – the stigma of losing at Battle Mountain had long since been thrown in the trash and then stomped on a few times.The playoff game was the first since 2000, and the first 4A berth ever, since the school had moved up classifications. The overall record of 9-5-2 in Cope’s first season was deserving of a coach-of-the-year award from his peers. His three senior stars were all selected for postseason honors, too. Arnold and Lauterbach were both picked for the 4A Slope All League Team, and Garnsey was given an honorable mention. Sophomores Morgan Wallace and Kate VanHee also picked up props from the contingent of opposing league coaches as Wallace made the all-league team and VanHee joined Garnsey with an honorable mention.”Your team only gets spaces (on the all-league team) if your team does well,” Cope said. “For those seniors to get recognition in their last year, it was such a nice way to close out their four years of high school. It’s a testament to a great team.”
The pieces of the puzzleEach of the three seniors and the two sophomores who garnered postseason recognition played very particularized roles for Battle Mountain. Lauterbach and Garnsey were the Huskies’ most potent offensive weapons. Arnold was the field general from her midfielder position, initiating attacks and controlling the flow of the game. Wallace and VanHee were dependable defenders who made mature decisions in the heat of the game.”For Lauren, this is her second-straight all-conference selection,” Cope said. “She was really the heart and soul of our team. She did a lot of the work that doesn’t get noticed in terms of goals and assists. She was always breaking up plays when we were under a little bit of pressure. Usually, when we wound und up getting a goal, it usually started with Lauren. If you rewound the tape back, you would see that three or four touches before the goal was scored, it was Lauren who initiated the attack.””I think my strengths are my ability to communicate,” Arnold said “I’m really aggressive, sometimes too aggressive, which would lead to penalties. But, I think that kind of sets the tone in play. Like, when I’m aggressive, then other people follow along.”Lauterbach, like Arnold also earned a reputation for being an assertive player and was most successful at translating her physical play into goals from her stiker spot.”Heidi is more attacking-oriented,” Cope said. “She was our leading scorer, because she was always very composed and able to finish her chances.””I’d say my strengths pretty much come down to my speed,” Lauterbach said. “That’s how I got most of my goals – by running faster than everyone else.”Garnsey’s steadiness relied in See Seniors, page A39her versatility. She split time at both forward and at midfielder, and was a proven scorer as well as a powerful motivator.”I played up front this year, which was really different,” Garnsey said. “It was fun playing with Heidi. I helped the team out in that way, and just by picking the team up.”
Cope also noted that the goals that Garnsey scored usually came at critical moments, something that distinguished her as a captain and a leader.”The goals that she did score were essential,” Cope said. “For example, in the Eagle Valley game when we were losing. She was a really good partner for Heidi. She usually gave her good service as a teammate, so that Heidi could score goals.”The future is now The only regret that the three senior postseason honorees have is that they only had one year under Cope.”We made it all the way to playoffs, but it was unfortunate that we had to lose in the first game,” Arnold said. “Overall, we made it that far, and that’s great. But, it would have been nice to have another year with the same coach.”The three are excited about the future of Battle Mountain soccer, though, and are proud to have laid a strong foundation for their younger teammates to follow.Winning breeds winning, no doubt, and the Huskies of 2004 were a winning team.A different team, unquestionably.”Now, with what we’ve done now, this year, it’s time to see if we can go a little farther,” Cope said. “With two sophomores being picked for (postseason awards) it just proves that our team is healthy. We’ve got a lot of talent coming back.”Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com