Kent Denver too much for Vail Mountain School | VailDaily.com

Kent Denver too much for Vail Mountain School

Dylan Hardenbergh presses the ball upfield against Kent Denver during the 3A state semifinals at Denver's All-City Stadium on Thursday. The Gore Rangers fell to the Sun Devils, 2-0.
James Mill | Special to the Daily |

DENVER — The long and short of it was that Vail Mountain School soccer ran into a better team in Kent Denver on Thursday during the 3A state semifinals at All-City Stadium in Denver.

The defending state-champion Sun Devils topped the Gore Rangers, 2-0, to advance to Saturday’s state final at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park against Fountain Valley or Coal Ridge.

It doesn’t diminish the understandable pain of the moment nor does it take away from what VMS did this fall.

“I told them I take great pride in being their coach,” Pete Petrovski said. “When I get to put on the stuff that says VMS soccer, it means a great deal to me, and it’s because of them. It’s because of what they provide. They’ve been awesome. They’ve been absolutely amazing, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

KENT TAKES CHARGE

Making their first semifinal appearance since 2000, when Denver natives asked why all VMS fans dressed up in hunters’ orange, the Gore Rangers had a rough go against Kent Denver. The Sun Devils started pressuring five minutes in and that didn’t stop until the half.

The Sun Devils’ Tyler Nowak took a corner kick from the other side of the pitch, cut along the left side of the end line and fed Max Gottesfeld for a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute.

“They took us out of some of the things we do, and that’s to their defensive credit.” Petrovski said. “They were very well prepared and they’ve got a lot of good players on the field. They play a physical style, which we struggled with. We made some adjustments. I liked the way we came out and reacted to it. Ultimately, they were the better team today. Congrats to them.”

VMS put together some possession in the second half, but Gottesfeld busted in on a breakaway and was taken down in the box. Davis Oudet did the honors, essentially sealing the game. The Gore Rangers had a few chances late, fighting to the end, but there was no Cinderella finish.

TAKEAWAYS

As the Gore Rangers exchanged hugs and posed for photos from a large crowd of fans, emotions were mixed. Players lingered around each other, not wanting the season to be over.

At the same time, there was acknowledgment of what VMS (16-2-1) did this season.

“I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to do this season,” senior Dylan Cunningham said. “Our team, we worked so well together. It’s so fun what we’ve done together. I’m definitely going to miss it. I had a great senior year.”

Cunningham’s favorite memory of 2015 was the Gore Rangers winning the league title, the gents’ first since 1990.

Fellow senior J.P. Elmblad talked about the spirit of the team.

“I think the two biggest players on our team when it comes to raising morale are Eric and John,” Elmblad said. “They’re amazing guys and they keep everyone happy. It’s awesome.”

That’s telling. Eric Zdechlik, the left midfielder, is a junior who has played exceptionally well all season, while mourning the passing of his father this summer. John Linn is the backup keeper. A senior, he lost his job early in the season, yet kept focused on the team’s success.

That says quite a bit about this bunch.

“It’s the group and coaching them as a unit, and watching them grow and develop individually,” Petrovski said. “I can tell you a story about each individual kid and the things that they’ve done. That’s what I’ll remember from this group.”

MORE TO COME?

The season finale is particularly tough on the seniors. This is it. But, as Elmblad starts looking at colleges, he sees good things ahead.

Elmblad should get into a good school because he’s been studying. This year’s seniors were 4-8-1 during their freshman year. The past three years, the eventual Class of 2016 went 38-11-4, a run, which includes a whopping nine playoff games.

During the past three postseasons, the Gore Rangers have advanced further each autumn — second round in 2013, quarters last season and semis this year.

“Freshman year, we didn’t perform well,” Elmblad said. “We’ve just been able to get farther each year, and I think that’s been beautiful for the VMS soccer program. Next year, I’m going to come support them because I know they’re going to make playoffs and win.”

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.