Eagle Valley boys soccer tops Vail Mountain School in overtime
GYPSUM — The Eagle Valley boys soccer team pulled out a 1-0 overtime win over Vail Mountain High School on Thursday under the lights at Hot Stuff Stadium. The win improves the Devils to 3-2 overall on the season.
Eagle Valley came out hot on attack in the first quarter of the game, with two doorstop shots and a free kick blocked by Vail Mountain goalie Mason Geller and three additional shots missing the cage wide.
Around 25 minutes in, Vail Mountain began shifting the momentum to their attacking end, fueling a back-and-forth between the two sides that intensified as the game went on. Beginning the second half of play, Vail Mountain kept the pressure up on offense, sending a shot from point-blank range that Eagle Valley goalie Jorge Bardales blocked to loud applause from the home audience.
Ten minutes into the second half, the physicality between the teams noticeably picked up, with little trips and shoves that culminated in one Vail Mountain player being flipped over the back of an Eagle Valley defender. The incident caused the referees to pause the game but ultimately return possession to Eagle Valley.
The final minutes of regulation play saw multiple shot attempts from both sides — more than at any point during the game — but as time ran down nobody could find the back of the net.
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The game remained scoreless throughout 80 minutes of regulation play and rolled into sudden-death overtime under the lights. The high energy and fervor that both teams ended the second half with were escalated, but this time Eagle Valley had the upper hand. The Devils pushed the ball hard on offense, getting multiple shot opportunities in the box within the first few minutes of overtime, and their relentless attack paid off.
Just under five minutes into overtime play, junior Heath Nager sent a shot that hit the crossbar before bouncing just over the goal line for the victory.
“It was awesome,” Nager said. “I haven’t gotten one yet this season, so it’s a great way to start that off.”
Nager and his teammates knew that they would have to bring a heightened will to win if they wanted to take home the victory, and that is exactly what they prepared for before overtime play.
“We felt the intensity shift during the end of the second half, and we prepared mentally right before the overtime started,” Nager said. “We were ready to go out there and do whatever it took to win.”
Eagle Valley coach Andy Wheeler has been working hard to establish a new identity for his team, and he said this game demonstrated the progress that they have been making towards that goal.
“We’re learning how to consistently play Devils soccer,” Wheeler said. “Playing Devils soccer hasn’t meant anything for a number of years, because there was no identity and no consistency, it was just a lot of (serving) it up and hope that something happens in the box. We’ve got guys who are dedicated to learning our system, playing their responsibilities, and everybody having their role and being accountable to it.”
The victory is especially sweet coming off of a tough overtime loss to Montrose High School on Saturday, and Wheeler hopes to drive that momentum into the rest of the season.
“I’m really proud right now,” Wheeler said. “After you see the heartbreak (as) we did on Saturday, it took us to 500 — but these guys are not happy with 500. We played 500 soccer last year, and we’re ready to take the next step.”
Vail Mountain is going through a substantial transition phase, as it is a 3A school playing in a 4A league due to closures on Interstate 70. Kevin Ives and Jake Rainey, the new head coaches, just started with this group of athletes six weeks ago and are learning and building the program as they go.
“You know that old saying, ‘We’re just putting the wings on as the plane is in flight?’” Ives said. “It’s one of those deals. The main goal for us is to prepare the boys to hopefully make a playoff run, so we’ll take some bumps and bruises along the way. Hopefully, that develops some character and shows the boys that we can compete with anybody in the state, regardless of (the) size of school, and hopefully that builds us into a stronger team.”
Vail Mountain plays Denver Christian away on Saturday at
1 p.m. and Eagle Valley plays Alamosa at home at 6 p.m. Tuesday.