Lions end Vail Mountain’s season abruptly
EAST VAIL — There will be no rematch with Kent Denver for Vail Mountain School soccer.
No. 5-ranked Colorado Springs Christian pulled the upset on Saturday, defeating the No. 4 Gore Rangers, 2-0, ending VMS’ quest for a 3A title at Bandoni Alumni Field.
“Oh, my goodness, it’s been a long time,” said Lions goalie Ross Norwood, who was the Man of the Match. “This team has worked extremely hard every single day. Everybody’s encouraging each other, supporting each other, getting us to our major goal, which is getting us this far. It’s been a blessing to be a part of this team.”
Colorado Springs Christian (16-2) will be making its first semifinal appearance since 2010, and will face Kent, 2-1 winners on Saturday over Coal Ridge, at All-City Stadium in Denver on Wednesday.
Tanner MacKay put the Lions up 1-0 in the 22nd minute, and then, as has been the pattern for the Gore Rangers (14-1) this season, VMS turned up the heat.
The question that will eat at VMS this offseason is “How in the heck did we not score a goal?”
“I’ve been on the other side of it, when things just don’t go in,” Lions coach Jason Rollins said. “They had their chances. They should have put in a couple. I feel for them. I’ve been on both sides.”
VMS should have been required to pay rent for how long it seemed it was in Colorado Springs Christian’s end, particularly in the second half. Norwood stoned Liam Hurley on a breakaway, leaving the latter to punch the turf in frustration. VMS’ Nathan Rouaud clanked a shot off the left post. Teammates Eric Zdechlik and Peter Ferraro were just off the mark.
Certainly, Norwood deserves great credit. It also seemed just not to be VMS’ day.
“Everything we asked them to do, they did,” Gore Rangers coach Pete Petrovski said. “As a coach, you always feel like you’re letting them down when stuff like that happens. You want to come up with some sort of magic elixir or potion or speech that gets them to that next step. It just didn’t work out today.”
And the dagger came in the 62nd, with VMS pressing forward for the equalizer. The Lions had a swift counterattack, which lead to a corner kick. Michael Benthem sent it in to big Lookens Smith, who made it 2-0.
And with that, VMS’ season ended abruptly.
“I told them I love them and I was proud of them,” Petrovski said. “They should be proud of themselves. I’m not mad that they lost. I’m sad I don’t get to be around them anymore, especially for those seniors. It’s not upsetting. It’s disappointing. It’s an end of an era for us.”
This is Petrovski’s fourth year at the helm of the program, so this season’s seniors were his first crew. Said crew has been pretty marvelous to the tune of 52-15-4.
“It’s hard right now looking at this,” Zdechlik said. “We played really well today, I thought. The ball didn’t bounce our way. We couldn’t seem to put it in the net, but I was proud of the guys. We fought all the way to the end.”
During this run, VMS has played in 12 playoff games, almost an extra season of postseason. The Gore Rangers have made three state-quarterfinal appearances in a row.
“We had a very competitive program,” Gore Rangers co-captain Kevin Garcia said softly. “This game is kind of bad way to end senior year because we had such a nice season. We’ve been building up and improving our play. Just the coaching staff and all the players who have been a part of this program have made this a lot of fun.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.