Pepi’s starts on the right foot
EAST VAIL ” Each year, the Pepi’s men’s soccer team’s opener at the Vail Invitational Soccer Tournament seems like an annual family reunion. Old friends gather with a few new faces mixed in.
Friday’s opener of the 35th edition of the tourney at the Vail Mountain School was no different. Familiar faces in the unique combination of Andy Banner and Wade Cheatham hooked up for one and newcomer Viliam Kusy scored a spectacular goal in a 2-1 win over Casual F.C.
“The first match is always the most important match in a tournament,” Kusy said. “If you win, it’s a good start and all our options are open tomorrow.”
Yes, they are. Under the 10-point system ” six for a win, three for a tie, one for each goal scored up to three and one for a shutout ” Pepi’s picked up eight points in pool play and firmly controls its destiny. The local 11 will take on Three Lions F.C. at noon, followed by the Kickers at 3:45 p.m. Both games are at the Vail Athletic Field.
Things didn’t start as planned for Pepi’s. Casual’s Jeff Stringham scored off a set play from the top of the box on a shot that Pepi’s goalie Kyle Mercer had no chance. Mercer, as Pepi’s has become accustomed, was ever steady between the pipes, including a point-blank save late in the first half.
Pepi’s responded immediately with a fun combination from the old VMS-Battle Mountain rivalry. Banner, the Battle Mountain boys’ soccer’s single-season scoring record holder, fed Cheatham, one of the anchors of VMS’ miracle run to the 3A state semifinals in 2000, for the equalizer.
It was just like old times for Cheatham, scoring a goal with VMS coach Bob Bandoni watching ” except for the fact that he was playing on the school’s new turf field.
“It’s a beautiful field. I wish it was here when I was playing,” Cheatham said. “It was fun playing with a guy whom I played with in high school. It just worked out. The ball was loose and I just went after it. First goal on the turf.”
Minutes later, Kusy performed some magic of his own deking a few Casual defenders for a lovely goal.
“You’re not thinking out there,” Kusy said. “You’re just going by instinct. You just do it. There’s a guy on one side. You go to the other side and you get a goal.”
Pepi’s will be looking for more today as it concludes pool play. With eight points in its pocket, the local side has a jump on collecting one of Pool A’s two berths in Sunday’s knockout round.
“It’s always good to start off well because it takes some of the pressure off,” Cheatham said. “We won’t be playing as tight tomorrow, knowing that we got a good start.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.