Playing to win: Gore Rangers in round 2
Vail, CO Colorado
EAST VAIL ” From turf to grass. From homework to ACT’s. And from No. 9 to No. 1.
This has been a long, enjoyable playoff soccer week for Vail Mountain soccer, with the weekend still ahead. After beating first-round opponent, No. 9 Lutheran Parker on the road, 1-0, the No. 8 Gore Rangers came home, caught up on some school work, and began to prepare Saturday’s road match against No. 1 Fountain Valley at Vail Athletic Field.
“I think that playing a game on Tuesday was a burden academically,” said Vail Mountain coach Bob Bandoni. “I think the students are relieved that we’re going to be playing on a Saturday. I could see it in practice that they are excited to play. At the same time, we have a couple of players who will be taking the ACT and will be late to the game. I fully support them.”
The Gore Rangers (13-2) have been focused and consistent all season, and haven’t erred from that path one bit in the playoffs thus far.
“We’re really happy with that,” said Vail Mountain defender Chris Woods. “We’re proud we’ve been able to bond with each other successfully.”
Saturday’s match puts Vail Mountain up against an undefeated Fountain Valley team in the 3A state quarterfinals on the Pumas’ grass field.
“In some ways there’s more pressure when the No. 8 seed is playing the No. 9 seed,” Bandoni said. “You want to be true to that judgment. The top eight teams went through (the first round) and now the pressure is off. We can play, I’m hoping, with a little less inhibition.”
During their match against Lutheran Parker, Vail Mountain was solid defensively, but had some trouble finishing in the final third of the field, something it hopes to remedy for Saturday.
“It’s been a part of practices,” Woods said. “We’re just working on a lot of different drills that allow us to adapt to different situations as far a defending in the midfield, seeing opportunities on runs and being creative up front. There’s a lot of focus from everyone on the team. We’re all motivated to get an upset.”
Earlier this year, the Gore Rangers knocked off a higher-ranked Basalt on the road. That match, along with other wins over 4A playoff teams (Summit and Steamboat Springs), shows Vail Mountain isn’t easily intimidated.
“From how we played throughout the season, we know we can play with any team we step on the field with,” Woods said. “Right now we go into any game with the thought that if there is a team we play against, we’ll do anything to beat them.”
One thing that has impressed Bandoni, in addition to his team’s play, has been the respect his team has showed to its opposition and the officials. During Tuesday’s match, several apparent hand balls went unnoticed.
“I’m proud of them being able to accept that as being part of the environment and transcending it,” Bandoni said.
While the Gore Rangers will certainly keep track of the Danes’ Rett Rayhill (21 goals), they won’t change their style of play that has brought them this far.
“Our system allows us to defend any play,” Woods said. “A lot of the time in years past, there’s been a mentality going in against a good team of not losing a game. For this game, the mentality is that you have to win. We’re going to attack them with everything we’ve got.”
The Gore Rangers, who will be donning their signature orange, can expect another large crowd to travel with them.
“Last game we had alumni there and future generations there,” Bandoni said. “It speak a lot about the school community ” the cohesiveness and support and small community feel. There a lot of symbolism in the orange.”
Kickoff is 4 p.m.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.