Vail Mountain soccer wins shootout thriller |

Vail Mountain soccer wins shootout thriller

Mason Geller’s clutch play sends Gore Rangers to 3A quarterfinals

Vail Mountain School's Sebastian Kohlhofer moves the ball down field Tuesday in East Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

After 110 minutes of playing in a freezing drizzle, Mason Geller had ice in his veins Tuesday night — maybe literally.

With the score knotted at 0-0 after regulation and two overtimes, the junior goalkeeper stopped two consecutive shots in the shootout to give the Gore Rangers a victory over the visiting DSST College View Wolves, sending them to the 3A quarterfinals.

Vail Mountain School's Nick Kirwood gets ball control in the second round playoff game against DSST College View Tuesday in East Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The close game was to be expected. To thwart the formative DSST attack, Vail Mountain’s game plan included a major formation change, much of it brought on by a slew of recent injuries. The adjustment in personnel was tailored to play to their defensive strengths.

“We knew it was going to be close and down to the wire,” said Vail Mountain coach Jake Rainey.

Vail Mountain School faced off with DSST College View in the second round of playoffs Tuesday in East Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

One player who played sparingly due to injury in last week’s playoff game versus St. Mary’s — but who was at full strength Tuesday — was Nick Kirwood. The senior’s savvy play and silky-smooth passing, along with his deft playmaking, provided entertainment in a game devoid of scoring. He helped set an aggressive tone for the boys in orange, too.

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“The first-half performance was really strong. The boys came out ready to win,” Rainey said. “We created fantastic opportunities.”

During the first 40 minutes, Vail Mountain was certainly the aggressor. Even though they controlled the time of possession and kept any DSST scoring chances to the bare minimum, the Gore Rangers couldn’t capitalize. It wasn’t due to a lack of good looks.

“Their keeper was relentless,” Rainey said about senior Jesse Reyes.

Vail Mountain School's Jack Schwartz heads the ball against DSST College View in the second round of playoffs Tuesday in East Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

While Reyes stayed busy, the keeper for the Gore Rangers mostly sat waiting in the freezing rain. When asked how the weather impacted him, Geller said, “A lot! It made me extremely cold!” The prescient comment seemingly foretold the ice that would gather in his veins for the clutch close.

In the second half, the Wolves went into attack mode.

“We knew they would come out strong,” Rainey said.

For the first 20 minutes, there was a healthy dose of back-and-forth moves, with neither team holding rank. A timeout with 12:40 changed the tide.

“I told them we have to be a lot sharper when passing the ball, especially with the conditions,” Rainey said about the late-game pep talk. “We needed to pick up the energy.”

In the closing minutes, Vail Mountain’s speed and defense appeared to have worn out the visitors from Denver. Yet, the game seemed destined for overtime, which is how it went.

Beck Sapp launches a kick against DSST College View Tuesday in Vail.
Connor Cooley/Courtesy photo

Senior Austin Morris had a big breakaway in the first overtime, but a hustle play from Reyes prevented damage. Later, it was Jair Gutierrez, the DSST junior, who gave the home crowd a scare with a right-footed thunderbolt that was narrowly blocked by Geller. With less than 2 minutes in the second overtime, Gutierrez made the stadium silent with another cannon towards the Gore Rangers’ net. Geller’s diving save was the play of the night.

Until the shootout, that is.

After Maciel Saucedo sent his shot high, Nolan Kim skipped in the first goal of the night for Vail Mountain. Hugo Ordonez put DSST on the board but was answered swiftly by Sebastian Kohlhofer. Then, a stunning block of Luis Orozco by Geller sent the student section into a frenzy. When Jack Schwartz found the back of the net for the Gore Rangers to make the shootout 3-1, all eyes were on Geller again. When he stopped Alejandro Moreno’s shot, it was a mad dash to pile on top of the junior goalie, an all-state lacrosse player who just started soccer in ninth grade, in celebration.

“Mason has grown so much as a keeper this year,” his coach said.

Playing a season filled with 4A opponents served Vail Mountain well.

“It prepared us to go down to the wire, and we proved that tonight,” Rainey said.

For Rainey, the fifth overtime game of the season for his squad came down to grit.

“The moment wasn’t too big,” he said.

The Gore Rangers will likely be heading for more big lights. They’ll face the winner of No. 1 seeded Jefferson Academy and No. 17 Fort Lupton on Nov. 6.


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