Prep soccer: Get ready for a photo finish
So, who’s going to win the 4A Western Slope in soccer this year?
Pick a name out of a hat.
I’m not kidding. It’s going to be that tight this year. And you can probably say the same thing for the 3A Slope, and we’ll get there shortly, Vail Mountain.
There are six teams in the 4A Slope and it is completely within the realm of possibility to see five different teams atop the table. And this why I love covering soccer.
You can always count on 4A soccer for a crazy race involving scoreboard watching and multiple postseason scenarios, usually written out on a folded piece of paper in Battle Mountain coach David Cope’s pocket. Last year, the Huskies won the Slope, but we were all still figuring out who advanced to the tournament from the league well after the last regular-season game was played. In 2009, Battle Mountain didn’t lose a game and didn’t win the Slope crown because Eagle Valley did in the Huskies with a season-ending tie.
This year could top that.
The Huskies are the defending champs. Steamboat Springs is Steamboat Springs. Moffat County has offensive power through the roof. Eagle Valley rebuilt nicely last year and is on an upward arc.
And then there’s Glenwood Springs, which is my personal sleeper pick. Not only do the Demons play at Stubler, which is graveyard for both Battle Mountain and Steamboat, but they lost a ton of close games last year with a bunch of juniors who return. If they find a scorer, the Demons could easily go from fifth last year to the penthouse.
Really Palisade is the only team that doesn’t impress.
Every point counts. Every team must get the full three against Palisade and then it’s going to be dog-eat-dog or Devil-eat-Sailor from there.
As a side note, when it comes to the postseason when the 4A Slope shares playoff spots with the 5A Southwestern League, expect three berths to go to the former and two spots (Montrose and Durango) to the latter.
The traditional questions surround Battle Mountain camp. The Huskies need a scorer to replace Jack Sunderland and a centerback in Cope’s 3-5-2 to find a new Cody Hervert. Midfield also needs some help with the graduation of Sergio Sifuentes, Bryan Morales and Leopoldo Rodriguez.
This may seem like a lot, but this is also why the Huskies’ program has been consistently solid, dating back to 1998, the first of 13 years in a row in postseason, be it at 3A or 4A. There are players in the pipeline.
The two big questions for Battle Mountain are the following:
• Huskies teams are always skilled, but will they have the physical presence to compete with higher-echelon teams like Montrose (Saturday), Cheyenne Mountain (Sept. 30), not to mention a likely-playoff berth?
• How goes September? The Huskies have five of their first eight on the road, starting today at Summit County, in the first month of the season, and then are home for five of seven in October.
Eagle Valley got creamed by graduation before last fall, but steadily improved and gelled as a team. Jason Rittmiller’s crew ended up 7-7-1, which included a four-game winning streak, bookended by victories against Glenwood – please remember that Battle Mountain couldn’t beat the Demons twice.
Kevin and Nestor Escobar return and they scare the heck out of opposing coaches. This group also had a nice motor in it, finding a way to rebound when behind.
If Eagle Valley hits the ground running – the Devils are at Coal Ridge today – good things are going to happen in Gypsum. The key stat for Eagle Valley last year was a 1-5 record against the top half of the league – Battle Mountain, Moffat County and Steamboat Springs. Only one of those losses was a blowout. That was Moffat, and the Devils avenged that loss.
Don’t be surprised if Eagle Valley breaks into the elite of the Slope in 2011.
And just in case you’re wondering, Huskies at Devils Sept. 13 and Devils at Huskies Oct. 20.
So I’m doing my preview of the VMS girls soccer team’s playoff game last spring and I run into Slade Cogswell, Class of 2001, VMS teacher and current boys soccer coach. He knew I was there to do the orange story – the Gore Rangers wear orange in the postseason. And Cogswell was ready to play, never mind the fact that he’s a guy.
That’s the way it is with orange and VMS, especially for the coach, who happened to be a sophomore on the first VMS team to wear orange back in 1998. The VMS lads were in contention for the postseason until the final day of the season at Basalt last year.
I know I said this last year for the girls, but it bears repeating for the gents as well in 2011. The key is not to let it come down to the final game of the season against Basalt, which is in East Vail this year. The Gore Rangers need to win the games they should win before that – Colorado Rocky Mountain School, Rifle, etc. – so that VMS is playing for seed, not its life against the Longhorns.
Then we can have Orange Day, also known as Dress like the Sports Editor Day, at VMS.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.