Vail Mountain School takes care of business in first round of 3A girls state soccer tournament
Gore Rangers defeat The Academy 3-0
The No. 2-seeded Gore Rangers girls soccer team knows that in order to make a deep run in this year’s 3A state soccer tournament, they’ll need to get the most out of themselves in every half. In Wednesday night’s first-round matchup against No. 31 The Academy, the first 40 minutes weren’t exactly up to snuff — but the second provided a pleasing sign of potential things to come.
“I think our team had a little rough time in the first half, but in the second, we stepped it up a lot, picked up the pace, got a few goals in there and just played well as a team,” said freshman Solveig Moritz, who scored four goals in Vail Mountain’s 5-0 win.
“There was a remarkable, really measurable difference between the first half and the second half,” said coach Bob Bandoni, who feels the team’s synergy and chemistry is still developing in a 12-1 season broken up by spring breaks.
“In the first half, I thought we had regressed in a few different areas,” he continued in his analysis. “And we talked about it at halftime, and to the player, everybody stepped up. For us to show that kind of growth from one half to the next is really promising and encouraging.”
Moritz was able to get her squad up 2-0 in the first half, but the VMS offense didn’t have its usual click. Goalie Frankie Marston, who would claim her eighth shutout and has allowed only five goals this season, had the best vantage point.
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“There was a lot of ball-watching,” said the senior, who hopes to walk-on at Middlebury next year. “And I mean from the goal, in a game where their attack isn’t as pressuring, it’s frankly boring to watch! I watch a lot of soccer!” she continued with a laugh.
The fundamental issue, according to Bandoni, was that as players compensated for teammates not playing within the system, they were consequently pulled out of the team’s structure. The result: several nice balls were played to empty spaces — and no one showed up.
“People were nervous, we were kind of missing a discipline and we were sometimes playing in the space when we should have been playing in the feet,” he said.
Marston said the halftime question posed to the group was, “Ok, who wants it?”
“We had a bunch of girls kind of jumping at that,” she said. “That was just a good thing to see come together at the end of the game.”
The freshmen might have eventually gotten the stat-sheet glory, but the seniors were the ones who answered the call, working hard to hold possession and moving the ball faster.
“You saw Liv (Moritz) just took the game over in the middle of the field and really gave us possession,” Bandoni said of the senior. Another senior, Sophie Stocker worked hard to move the ball downfield and set up speedy freshman Shea Armistead for the first goal of the second half to make it 3-0.
“In the first half I think we were a little jumbled up. In the second, we got our shape back and started connecting a bit more and it was a lot better,” Armistead said. “I’m lucky to have this opportunity and I’m hoping to continue this style of play and improve every single game.”
Bandoni felt the support of older players throughout the season has gifted the younger ones a sense of freedom and confidence to play within the team’s chemistry. Instead of deer-in-the-headlights timidity in their first playoff game in the traditional orange uniforms, the underclassmen contributed mightily.
“I’m so pleased when freshmen can play with that kind of confidence because to me, it says something about the culture of our team,” Bandoni explained.
“It says that the older players are encouraging them and the older players are sometimes even playing beyond themselves so they can bring success to the younger players.”
By the end of the game, Solveig Moritz had dissected The Academy’s keeper, going low and to the side for a pair of goals to ice the match.
“We kind of discussed as a team, like, yeah we need to go lower because that’s where we’ll have the most chance for goals,” she said, adding that having two freshmen carry the scoring was a “really special and meaningful way” to open her post-season career. Moritz hinted at the VMS mantra — “process over product” as Bandoni often says — when asked about what the goal for Wednesday was, knowing her team was heavily-favored and expects to advance far into the 3A bracket.
“I think in the first game we expect to play well as a team and progress from there,” she said. “No matter our opponent, we want play as best as we can as one unit.”
Vail Mountain will host the winner of Thursday’s game between No. 15 Peak to Peak and No. 18 Englewood on Saturday. A win there would thrust them into next week’s quarterfinals.
“We have to be able to look at ourselves and say, we got to the top of our game,” Bandoni added. “If we get to the top of our game, that’s all we can do.”