Vail Mountain School girls soccer falls to Lutheran
Gore Rangers end season in state quarterfinal
The final score of Tuesday’s 3A girls soccer quarterfinal between Vail Mountain School and Lutheran was 5-3 — in favor of the bad guys.
“The scoreboard tells a story — it’s honest,” said Gore Ranger head coach Bob Bandoni.
“But there’s a story behind that as well, and so I couldn’t ask for more.”
Not every story has a happy ending, and in prep sports, most don’t. With a 15-2 senior-led team blessed with skill, speed and chemistry, however, VMS fans had good reason to believe this tale could have maybe ended a week later. Still, the well-spoken veteran coach’s words rang true for what the sea of orange fans witnessed Tuesday evening.
It started with a Lutheran score at 32:58. Hannah Serbinski rode Lutheran sophomore Brooklyn Bussey all the way down the sideline, working her out of the box. Within 5 yards of the goal, both players locked up, but Rachel Robinson was there to collect the carnage, deke inside, and rifle home the first goal to the lower left of the net.
Kjersti Moritz responded at 21:57, bouncing a straight-away shot off the crossbar and in. The entire first half was characterized by speed.
“The first half, we got caught on our back foot,” said Bandoni, describing the Lions as being “direct and fast” in their play.
“The last 10-minutes of the first half, we were beginning to step up to the pace of the game.”
Bussey exemplified the Lions’ speed, breaking away at 15:21. Her point blank shot was blocked by Frankie Marston. Four minutes later, however, Bussey got loose again, this time putting home a 2-1 lead going into halftime.
During the break, Bandoni preached a “more aggressive and direct” style of play.
Heeding those words, Liv Moritz set up Tegan Sharfstein for a perfect scoring chance, but Sharfstein’s kick harmlessly rolled wide left of the goal. Two minutes after the missed opportunity, Mackenzie Megill got behind the Gore Ranger defense and made things look easy with a straight on shot over the head of Marston. Two minutes later, Bussy beat a diving Marston to a loose ball, easily placing a shot from the wing into the open net. With 28:36 remaining, it was 4-1.
“It was a little breakdown,” Bandoni said of the opponent’s run.
“In retrospect, to go down 4-1, you think your spirit is broken, and for our kids to keep playing and even amp it up a little bit to get the second and third goals really says a lot about this group.”
What Bandoni was referring to all started with Gaby Gish floating a long range bomb over Lions’ goalie Bissette Bussey at 22:23. Shortly after, Stella Stone received a free kick after being knocked to the ground. Her shot from the corner was collectively headed in by a group of Gore Rangers, making it 4-3.
“To see us climb back from down 4-1 and get to 4-3 was pretty special,” Bandoni said.
“I was really proud of the learning that occurred and their ability to respond to what we needed to do.”
With 8:22 to go, Gaby Gish had another fantastic look off a centering feed from Moritz, but her shot arched left. On the other end, Megill received a penalty kick of her own. Shooting from the right side of the box, Megill’s shot hooked left around the three-member Gore Ranger blockade. As Marston moved left into position, the ball ricocheted off a charging Serbinski, bouncing in the opposite direction and into an empty net.
“That’s unfortunate — it happens in soccer,” Bandoni said of the bad bounce and 5-3 deficit. The Rangers maintained their fight, but in the end, it was not meant to be.
“We played a good team,” the coach admitted. In the postgame circle, the last for many teary-eyed players, Bandoni was proud of his players for relishing the competition.
“We got exactly what we asked for — we want to play tough opponents,” Bandoni remarked.
“And they all agreed. I was looking at them, tears in their eyes, but they’re nodding their heads saying ‘yeah, yeah, this actually was exactly what we wanted.’ We didn’t necessarily want to be on the losing side.”
He continued, “We saw who we are, and to me, who we are, I would describe as resilient, responsive to the situation in front of us, and …” he paused.
“And pretty darn tough.”