Pepi’s bows out in quarters
EAST VAIL ” It’s trite. It’s cliche. It seems rather obvious, but it’s true.
You don’t win soccer games if you can’t score. Pepi’s did just about everything but put the ball in the net in Sunday’s quarterfinals of the Vail Invitational Soccer Tournament in a 2-0 loss to Three Lions at Bandoni Alumni Field in East Vail.
“We had a problem, which plagues Pepi’s, which is scoring goals, missed opportunities,” Pepi’s vet Jeff Hayslip said. ” We’ve been trying to work on finishing in practice recently. That obviously didn’t do much to help us put goals in the net. Defensively, aside from a few mistakes, I felt we played OK this whole weekend. You can’t win if you don’t score. I don’t know what the remedy is.”
Down 1-0, Pepi’s peppered the net in the second half, giving Three Lions goalie Greg Miller an extensive workout. Nacen Gray, Andy Banner, Edgar Mancera and Eddie Shoenbein all had golden opportunities for the equalizer, but couldn’t rip the twine.
“We’ve been in those situations before and we’ve crumbled,” Three Lions player-coach Mark Turner said. “Teams have come back and not only equalized, but won the game. Pepi’s had enough quality to do that. The guys just stuck in. I was so proud of them, just very really resilient.”
Pepi’s threw everyone forward in the waning minutes of the game, but Javier Larios struck on the counter-attack to dash Pepi’s’ chances of advancing.
“It’s awesome,” Turner said. “We’re from Colorado Springs, so we don’t get to play this level of soccer very often. So coming up here is a great challenge. They’re an excellent team. Pepi’s represent Vail well every year. To beat them is a real high for us.”
Three Lions’ Travis Filho scored in the first half when he intercepted an errant clearing attempt by Pepi’s goalie Kyle Mercer. Pepi’s seemed to settle, but never found the equalizer.
“We had a lot of chances, but be didn’t capitalize on them. Bottom line,” Hayslip said. “Hopefully, we can find what Banner did in high school, the knack to find the back of the net.”
Banner, who holds the Battle Mountain boys’ single-season scoring record, did have two goals and an assist during the tournament. And contrary to postgame talk of Pepi’s ability to score in the Vail Invitational, the last three years say otherwise.
In pool play, Pepi’s has averaged five goals in three games of pool play, an excellent clip for shortened 60-minute games. The rub is that in each of the team’s last three quarterfinal appearances ” all losses ” Pepi’s has a total of one goal, which came in a 4-1 decision to the Denver Soccer Club last year.
“We played OK,” Jeff Leonardo said. “It’s a little disappointing. We had a good squad to keep going on. (Three Lions) is going to be as tired as can be. It’s unlucky we can’t get the ball in the net. What are you going to do? It always seems to be a struggle. I don’t know why.”
Pepi’s finished the tournament with a 1-1-2 record, and returns to La Liga play Sunday.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.