The beat continues for Huskies soccer
Well, well, well, look who turned up in the winner’s circle again?
They took the long road to get there, but that is 4A Western Slope title No. 6 in eight years for Battle Mountain soccer. The two years they didn’t win the title, the Huskies were third (2008) and tied for first with Steamboat Springs (2009), but lost on tiebreakers.
In high school terms, that’s a dynasty. This is also the 14th year, dating back to 1998, when Battle Mountain played 3A ball that the team is in the postseason.
• I know I sound like a broken record, but it really wasn’t always this way. My first year here, 1997, the Huskies managed a dramatic 1-0 win over Moffat County to finish third, a very exciting development, in the 3A Slope’s Northern Division, still light years behind Steamboat Springs and the Vail Mountain School (yep). Ian Colbrun had the goal, for the historians.
Also in ’97, the Huskies also beat Eagle Valley for the first time in three years on a Matt Johnson goal.
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There was the moral victory of actually scoring a goal in the season finale at mighty Steamboat in a 5-1 loss (Eric Brown). (This is why Battle Mountain-Steamboat is such a big deal. The Sailors simply destroyed the Huskies for years.)
And then there were the exciting nights pre-Internet and text messages when Huskies coach David Cope and I were calling assorted newspapers to find out results to see if Battle Mountain could slide into the last playoff spot in the 3A or 4A Slope.
Now, it’s simply taken for granted that Battle Mountain soccer will be in the playoffs and will win league.
• What makes this year’s edition special is that the Huskies were really close to falling to pieces. The team lost one of its best players after he scored two against Eagle Valley in September. The Huskies were also without four players, who went afoul of ye olde “21 means 21” rule for a key stretch which included the team’s only loss at Steamboat. Somehow, some way, Cope and his staff of Allison O’Neill (Go Chapman), Kyler Mercer and Jose Alfredo Velasquez and the players themselves found a way of hanging on.
• It’s hard to pick an MVP on this team, and I don’t see Battle Mountain having the Slope’s Player of the Year this postseason, and that is probably as good of an explanation as to how the Huskies weathered the storm. It was someone different every night – Bryan Aubel, Roberto Diaz, Joe LyBarger, etc.
• And in some way, the four suspensions early in the season might have been a blessing in disguise. (We’ll stop right now and be emphatic – It’s against the law for minors to drink. The kids were wrong. They should have been suspended. If you’re underage and reading this, don’t even think about drinking.)
With Nick Vossler (and we’ll get to him shortly) out, the goalie’s job became Christian Espinoza’s, and he took it and ran with it. He made the net his job with the shutout against Moffat on the ice rink that was the pitch about two weeks ago. Espinoza also had the game-saving stop against Steamboat a week later. He’s a big-time keeper.
• I point out Vossler, not to condemn him for his off-field antics, but for his response to them. He’s played well on the pitch, which is nice. What was even better was that he addressed the team in the locker room before Homecoming weekend. He talked about his suspension, what it was like to watch the Huskies beat Eagle Valley in OT without him, and a painfully-silent car ride home from Steamboat after the team’s lone loss. Every coach at every high school in the country talks about Homecoming weekend, but it means more coming from a student-athlete who seems like he learned from his mistake.
• Vossler isn’t the only one who’s grown up this season. LyBarger had a promising freshman year, and then faded last year. He was clearly a different player this season. (The sound you just heard was basketball coach Tom Padilla yelling, “Yes.”) Ze Barbosa, who is actually a rugby player back in Portugal, played organized soccer for the first time in his life. (He’s earned the nickname Fez, from “That 70’s Show.” I think he should run around saying, “I said, good day, sir.”) Chris Shea had a totally-dumb foul in the first Glenwood game, later a concussion and still helped this team on and off the field. And we could keep going here.
• As for the important question: What seed does this team get? Cope was thinking about No. 12 Thursday night. The team obviously wants top eight and the two home games which would accompany it. Battle Mountain can argue justifiably that it hasn’t lost since Sept. 17 to a good Steamboat team, and has an impressive slate of nonconference wins (No. 9 Cheyenne Mountain being the biggest).
Whatever the seed, watch out.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.