Nine is enough as VMS soccer blanks Delta
EAST VAIL — Let’s imagine hypotheticals in which Vail Mountain School soccer plays an opponent 9-on-11.
Perhaps, coach Bob Bandoni saw that referees on his eponymous field were wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and managed to get red-carded twice before the game even began.
Or perhaps, we have one ref with a red hat for a red card and VMS goalie Holly Parker does a Michael Busenhart and wanders out of the box and gets a red. (Seriously, people, we know that goalies out of the box have been a theme this season, but Boozy started it a long time ago.)
Anyway, it wasn’t a hypothetical on Thursday at storied Bandoni Alumni Field as VMS beat Delta, 3-0. Yep, there were only nine Gore Rangers out there.
And there was a method to the madness, though we do sometimes question Bandoni’s mental fitness.
“What we’re trying to do is more coherence in the midfield,” Bandoni said. “We’re trying to attack in numbers. We are trying to be more responsive to supporting the attack.”
Translating the Bandon-ese, the Gore Rangers (7-1) want to play to space. While not advisable in a possible playoff game against, say, Kent Denver, there’s more space with nine.
VMS was able to work the desired diagonals and flanks in scoring their three goals — Maddy Cooper twice and Tess Johnson in between those two markers.
Factor No. 2 was that it forced VMS to play faster, another item on the checklist during this part of the season.
“We really have to watch and think ahead of the game because we don’t have our back there to defend,” VMS’ Olivia Manula said. “As a center back, you have to pull in your (midfielders) or step in front of the ball. There’s more pressure.”
And, with the team’s seniors on a school trip, playing short made the game a good test of fitness, both physically and mentally.
“We had to work for each other,” Cooper said. “We had to work together and that makes our team stronger.”
With longtime starting goalie Holly Parker away — and therefore, not able to charge out of the box for a hypothetical red — Sarah Evans picked up the shutout for the Gore Rangers.
Who had Thursday?
The emphasis on speed, pressure and fitness all are with an eye toward the last third of the regular-season schedule and the 3A playoffs. After hosting Moffat County on Saturday, VMS’ slate upgrades dramatically.
VMS is at Mullen, ranked seventh in the 4A ratings-percentage index, on April 27 and hosts 4A Battle Mountain two days later. In addition to 4A Summit County, VMS also has tilts with Coal Ridge and Basalt, who appear to be the cream of the 3A Slope crop.
“I think we have a ways to go, although there is a nucleus that is forming and it seems to be growing as we add players,” Bandoni said. “I think they’re developing some synergy. It’s beginning to happen. We’re also working on our timing into the attack. It’s coming, but we have a long ways to go.”
And, yes, for those who had Thursday in the “When’s Bandoni going to bust out the word synergy pool,” you’re a winner.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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