Season C’s lesson: Nonconference games matter
Or why playing Summit over and over doesn’t work
In Seasons A and B, we learned that COVID-19 is a pain in the tush and flexibility is a must these days as we saw teams shuttered for quarantine or contact tracing.
Eagle Valley wrestling was wrestling, then it was shut down for the season. Then, they changed the rules and the Devils did go regionals, and, of course, Battle Mountain wrestlers Anthony Sanchez and Jeremiah Vasquez made it all the way to state, only to be snared in contact tracing.
So we’re used to the basic concept of you think you’re playing football against Summit County on Thursday, but now you’re playing Roosevelt. Congratulations.
We’ve had more than a week since Battle Mountain boys’ soccer went out and roughly 72 hours since Eagle Valley volleyball finished. We have some perspective on what were two very good teams and how the new world is affecting them.
Yes, Vail Christian volleyball is still going — Go Saints — but Season C also taught us a big lesson.
Nonconference play matters.
Getting out of the Slope
Stating the obvious, COVID has altered scheduling, particularly nonleague games. By and large, our four teams play exclusively within their respective leagues (Huskies soccer) and maybe get a regional nonconference game or two (Devils volleyball) with the coronavirus still present.
In retrospect, the rules for Season C might have ended the seasons of Huskies soccer and Devils’ volleyball before the anything started.
By playing 10 Slope games as a regular season, Battle Mountain soccer never saw a high level of competition to prepare it for the playoffs. It shouldn’t be surprising that once the Huskies got to the quarterfinals that they lost to Lewis-Palmer.
The Rangers play in the 5A/4A Pike Peak Conference and played 5A Liberty and Pine Creek and 4A powers Cheyenne Mountain and Air Academy within league. Even if Glenwood Springs is in a chippy mood, the Demons don’t play anywhere near the physical game seen on the Front Range.
Likewise, Eagle Valley volleyball was in a similar situation, playing the 4A Slope with some nonconference (Basalt, Central, Aspen and Montrose). The Palisade games were good for the Devils as well as Battle Mountain and Steamboat contests, but a lot of games were glorified scrimmages.
None of this was anyone’s fault as COVID dictated scheduling, but there is a reason Eagle Valley volleyball goes to the Regis Jam every normal year. The Devils see bigger, faster more powerful teams on the Front Range before regionals in November and then have a fighting chance when teams like Golden and The Classical Academy come to town.
Eagle Valley wasn’t “bad” on Saturday. The Devils just hadn’t seen quick setting and equal size and it took them a set or two to adjust and everyone is short on time these days.
And, yes, this is why Battle Mountain soccer schedules as many games as possible against Front Range squads like Cheyenne Mountain, Evergreen, Golden and TCA until these teams cancel their series when they don’t like coming up here and getting beaten.
Both Vail Christian and Vail Mountain volleyball didn’t play outside their league until the playoffs. I’m thrilled the Saints made it through, but VMS was done the minute it drew Holyoke.
The reason the Saints and Gore Rangers always play 4A Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley is, yes, it’s a cheap trip — money is the biggest factor in scheduling — and Vail Christian at Battle Mountain in volleyball isn’t exactly a costly road trip. It’s also a chance for the Saints and the Gore Rangers to see better competition.
Need to get ready for powerhouse 2A teams like Meeker and Holyoke? The Huskies and Devils are a perfect fit for that.
Whether a team played in Season C or not, the season has shown us how important nonconference play is and schools and their teams need to adjust accordingly to their needs in the future.
No nonconference play in spring 2021 brings another issue into relief. Battle Mountain soccer, the boys, in particular, has likely just outgrown the 4A Western Slope.
When you’ve won 14 of the last 17 league titles, well, yes, that’s the case. The Huskies have also spent the last three years beating the heck out of Montrose and Durango, so they’re pretty much the best team in the state west of Denver.
In a perfect world, the Huskies would leave the Western Slope for boys soccer and just play in the Jeffco. (Joining the 5A/4A Southwest Conference — Montrose, Durango, Cortez and the Junction schools — wouldn’t make the competition better and would cost more in travel.)
This is high school, not college football and Battle Mountain soccer is staying put. And while everyone associated with Battle Mountain soccer wants Steamboat Springs or Glenwood Springs or Eagle Valley to emerge as challengers within the league, Battle Mountain will have 10 of its 15 games within the Slope for the foreseeable future.
Ergo, the five nonconference games must be Murderer’s Row for the Huskies, and, in fairness to the program, Battle Mountain had lined up a stiff slate of nonconference games for what was meant to be 2020 soccer before COVID.
Don’t be surprised if Huskies soccer coach David Cope says to some combination of Windsor, TCA, Cheyenne Mountain, Lewis-Palmer and Air Academy or the like, “We’re coming to your place. Just name the time and the pitch.”
This lesson must be learned.