Orange Vail Mountain School soccer ready for playoffs
EAST VAIL- On Oct. 22, 1998, Vail Mountain soccer coach Bob Bandoni gathered his team for pizza and showed them highlights of the 1988 Euro Championships, when the little country of Netherlands, clad in orange, won the tournament by beating soccer giants West Germany and the Soviet Union.
The message: Like the Netherlands, you’re a small school, but you can play like lions.
Bandoni then handed out orange jerseys for his team’s postseason game against Bishop Machebeuf, and the Buffaloes never stood a chance.
Vail Mountain 7, Machebeuf 0.
And it has been tradition ever since.
“Like many traditions, I didn’t know it would evolve as it has to be such a cherished tradition in the school,” Bandoni said. “It’s really to the point where the meaning behind the original connection has become secondary to the meaning within the program.”
The Netherlands-small school analogy remains true because VMS is one of the smallest schools in Colorado to field a team. But orange, as Bandoni said, has become more than that. Every VMS soccer team – fall or spring – suits up with one purpose in mind. Make the playoffs and wear the orange.
That continues today at 4:30 p.m. when No. 15 VMS hosts No. 18 Lutheran Parker at Bandoni Alumni Field for the first round of the 3A playoffs.
“We’re all really excited,” senior Maggie Sherman said. “It’s something we’ve all been looking forward to, to get the jerseys and get into the mindset of the game.”
It’s hard not to get into the mindset, walking around the VMS campus. “Orange Day!” signs, encouraging students and fans to wear the color today, are everywhere. Go to Bandoni’s office, and the orange teams are featured prominently, including the first boys (1998) and girls (2006) teams to don the jerseys.
As the ladies did their final walk-through Wednesday, the jerseys were being arranged around the table of the board room by numerical order.
“I would try as hard as I could to be the ball girl, so I could run up and down the sideline when they were playing,” said senior Bridget Moffet, who started at VMS in second grade. “I loved orange days and we got to support the older kids who did so well and got to wear orange. And wearing that is so amazing.”
And orange generally makes for memorable moments. Truth be told, the 1998 team made the postseason because of strange CHSAA quirk – VMS was 1-9-2 that season, going into the Machebeuf game.
But try telling that to those on that team. They played the game of their life. To go into the way-back machine, Will McConathy and then-sophomore Slade Cogswell scored twice, and Chris Robinson, Matt Slevin and Colin Lamb also ripped the twine. (Whatever happened to that Cogswell guy?)
In 2000, VMS had its most memorable run. The ninth-seeded Gore Rangers beat D’Evelyn and then shocked No. 1 Colorado Academy, 3-1 (Oscar Alcantar, Danny Macintosh and Wade Cheatham), to become the smallest school in Colorado history to make the state semifinals.
The amazing thing about the Colorado Academy game was that Vail Pass was closed by an early snowstorm, yet Gore Rangers fans, presumably via Leadville, outnumbered the hosts. At the semifinals in Englewood, members of the Denver media were asking, “What’s up with those people in orange?”
Four years later, VMS knocked off Denver Lutheran on a Patrick Scanlan golden goal in the middle of a whiteout, thus proving that wearing orange is not only fashionable, but practical.
The goal for the VMS ladies (10-2-2) is to make their moment in orange. The Gore Rangers first qualified in 2005, falling to Denver Christian. But this is the third year in a row now that VMS has been in orange – the Gore Rangers fell on the road the last two years to Denver Christian (again) and Colorado Academy.
“I think, for our whole team, everyone, especially in our grade, have been able to grow up with all the years we’ve been in postseason and haven’t made it through the first round,” senior Clare Elich said. “I think for people, for alumni who have played for the VMS soccer team, I think it’s a really big deal. Personally, I watched so many people, it’s kind of surreal in some ways we’re here and now we have to take it to the next step. I think it’ll be great. We just have to play the game we can play.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.