Summit spoils senior night for Eagle Valley soccer
Devils must now watch and wait to see where they land in 4A playoff bracket
GYPSUM — Senior night just wasn’t Eagle Valley soccer’s night.
Things started off right Tuesday under the lights for the home Devils at Hot Stuff Stadium against visiting Summit. Devils Junior Heath Nager netted two goals within the first 16 minutes to stake the home side to a 2-0 lead.
But the Tigers crashed the party after that, scoring two goals in the final 20 minutes of the first half to knot the game at 2-2. And, in a tense second half where both teams battled for the deciding goal, Summit junior midfielder Owen Gallo stunned the home crowd with a 70th minute strike that stood up for the 3-2 win.
“I’ve got to give it to them,” Devils coach Andrew Wheeler said. “They made massive adjustments and our adjustments didn’t go as planned.”
“This is what we’ve been building toward all season, moments like this,” Tigers coach Jotwan Daniels said. “It’s not about the start, it’s about the finish, and we’ve been getting better and better and better. Results don’t ever show what we’re trying to do, but performances like you saw right there, down 2-0 and to get three back, is all about what Summit’s going to do going forward.”
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This wasn’t the same Tigers team that the Devils blanked 3-0, in Breckenridge on Sept. 29. And it certainly wasn’t the result the Devils expected on senior night in their regular season finale with playoff seeding at stake.
The victory was Summit’s first in league play this season, while the loss may have cost the Devils a home playoff game. Eagle Valley, now 6-5 overall and 4-4 in the 4A Western Slope, has to watch and wait with its regular season over. The Tigers, who wrap up the regular season Thursday against the Steamboat Springs Sailors, improved to 7-5-1 overall and 1-5-1 in the 4A Slope.
“We’re gonna watch the numbers,” Wheeler said. “Obviously I would love to host a playoff game during homecoming week, but getting to the playoffs is pretty amazing as is.”
That point, despite Tuesday’s disappointing result for the Devils, isn’t missed. This group of Devils seniors won one game their freshman year. They’re all but certain to be among the state’s top 32 teams when the 4A playoffs start next week.
“I have an emotional team,” Wheeler said. “This game meant so much to so many of these guys. These seniors are the ones that have been with me for four years. For a one-win team to go to the playoffs by their senior year, they’ve put some work in. They’ve reinvigorated what it means to be a Devil and play Devils soccer. I know I say that a lot. It’s about the school and it’s about this program. It’s not about individual players. It’s about the positive energy of these kids. They’re redefining what it means to be a Devil, and I think that’s great.”
Nager certainly echoed that sentiment after the game. He was happy to score two goals, but he would have preferred the win for the Devils seniors.
“I didn’t want to get overconfident with the team, but we kind of started breaking down,” he said. “And when they scored two goals, our energy kind of dropped. It was hard to get it back up at the end of the game.”
It certainly was a game with big swings. Neither side dominated possession throughout and each team had its shared of missed chances.
Nager’s first goal came in the third minute, and then he netted his second in the 16th off a perfectly-timed assist from sophomore Jeff Lopez. Lopez broke through the Summit defense and then dropped a dime in the middle of the box to Nager, who crossed up Summit’s keeper.
The Tigers refused to fold, though. Junior forward Fabian Cuevas netted Summit’s first goal in the 21st minute when he charged on a loose ball in the Eagle Valley box and knocked it in with a jump kick.
Then, a little more than six minutes later, junior forward Gallo made it 2-2. Gallo’s game winner in the 70th minute came off an assist from Cuevas, after Cuevas made a furious run into the box before passing off to Gallo, who one-timed the shot into net.
“It was awesome, especially since they beat us 3-0 last time,” Gallo said. “I know a lot of these kids, playing club with them. It was just good to get that win against them.”