Sailors beat Huskies, 2-0, claim crown in Edwards
EDWARDS, Colorado ” If not at the friendly confines of Gardner Field, why not at Freedom Park in Edwards?
Short of reclaiming the 4A Western Slope in front of the home crowd, Steamboat Springs did the next best thing, beating archrival, Battle Mountain, 2-0, Tuesday on the road to bring the league title back up Highway 133, ending the Huskies’ two-year run as champions.
“It’s amazing,” said Sailors junior Emi Birch, who had the game-winning goal in the 38th minute. “It’s nice to regain the throne because we had it previously for so long. They had it for the two years I’ve been in high school, so it’s nice to retake that.”
Under the category of “not really surprising,” Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann wasn’t doing handstands, but was pleased for his crew.
“It’s awesome,” the low-key Bohlmann said. “Today was important for a variety of components. No. 1 was getting back from spring break. All our players are very accountable and they did the work individually. When you’re used to playing two games per week, that’s rhythm and you break it up, it’s difficult.
“We were looking to come in and be as sharp as we could. Battle Mountain’s tough draw to come in and play. So we were able to come in and get that first game under our belt and get it done against Battle Mountain who obviously came to play today. They brought a lot of intensity. And oh yeah, we clinched the league. I’m psyched for the girls.”
Steamboat raised its record to 9-0 in the Slope and 10-3 overall. In the unlikely event that Steamboat were to lose at Moffat County Thursday, the Sailors hold the tiebreaker over second-place Glenwood Springs by virtue of defeating the Demons earlier this season.
“It’s a nice rivalry and that’s a good team and they’re worthy of the league title,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “They can run the table in the 10 league games. They’re well-coached. They’re well-disciplined. When we did give them a game the first 20-30 minutes, they didn’t panic. They stuck to their game plan. You’ve got to hand it to them. We look forward to wresting it back from them next year.”
End of the half
The Huskies did put forth a strong effort Tuesday against Steamboat, much better than in previous losses (7-1 and 4-1) this season.
“It’s a shame we don’t play them two more times.” Cope joked.
With Steamboat coming off spring break and the Huskies playing Tuesday as if the game were their World Cup Final, Battle Mountain did have chances to draw first blood. While Sailors goalie Hannah Berglund clamped down, Steamboat eventually went for the jugular in the waning minutes of the half.
Battle Mountain’s Syd Idzikowski got whistled on the right side outside the box for a hand ball, setting up a Steamboat free kick. Birch arched a beautiful ball on which Huskies goalie Nicole Frye had no chance.
Up 1-0, the Sailors came right back down in stoppage time with a brilliant cross from Joanie Bier to Mandi DeVos who stuffed it in the onion bag.
“The key thing for us, we were able to work ourselves into the game,” Bohlmann said. “Battle Mountain owned the first 20 minutes, their intensity of play, closing the ball down, winning the 50-50s. They were all over that. We slowly were able to build our way into the game. Through that, we were able to build some opportunities. Emi Birch stepped forward made the most of that free kick. Obviously, that second one was a spirit clincher.”
The referees had correctly added extra time to the first half as Battle Mountain’s center-back Maddie LyBarger went down in the ninth minute with a hyper-extended right knee. LyBarger, as is her style, returned and played the rest of the game as the Huskies had their best defensive effort of the season against sustained pressure.
“Those are the things which define a season,” Cope said. “I think all your can ask for from a group of high school kids is that they try to improve throughout the course of a season. Our kids have certainly met that challenge. They left it on the field. They gave us maximum effort.”
While Steamboat has wrapped up the Slope title, Bohlmann’s squad is at Moffat County Thursday and then at Glenwood Springs Friday for a nonconference game. (The Sailors and Huskies are both playing the minimum 10-game league slate.)
With the caveat that the Sailors are focused on Moffat and Moffat exclusively, a tilt at Glenwood Springs for Steamboat is intriguing. Stubler Memorial Field isn’t a fun place for anyone to play, and it’s been a downright nightmare for Steamboat.
The Sailors haven’t won down there since 2005 and Kelly Labor’s junior year, to put this in perspective. Thus, a difficult venue and a tough opponent make for a good playoff tune-up for Steamboat.
“No matter what team we’re going to play whether its (Moffat County) or Glenwood or even a first-round playoff game, we’re going to go in with the same mentality,” Birch said. “No matter who it is, we’re going to compete. We’re going to fight our hardest to win.”
Meanwhile, the Huskies Thursday are at Wheat Ridge, which will serve pretty much as a dry run for the playoffs. At 8-6 and 7-3, the Huskies will likely be seeded somewhere from Nos. 23-30 when the bracket comes out Sunday. Battle Mountain will be at a powerhouse in the playoffs next week, so why not start early?
“The Wheat Ridge game is great in the sense that we’ve been high seeds before in the playoffs,” Cope sad. “Now we get to measure ourselves against a really highly-ranked team and it’s not a playoff game. This is the scrimmage before the playoffs that perhaps we’ve been lacking before. Sometimes, we’ve come into the playoffs not quite battle-tested. That won’t be the case this year.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.