Vail Mountain soccer roars back and into quarters
You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding.
Saturday was one of those moments when truth was better than fiction as the Vail Mountain School soccer team was down 3-0 to Stargate School with 20 minutes remaining during the second round of the 3A state playoffs.
And the mighty orange-clad Gore Rangers roared back for a 4-3 win.
“We all ended up surrounding Sammy (Gish),” VMS senior Maddy Cooper said. “It was a hug-pile.”
The No. 21 Gore Rangers advance to Wednesday’s 3A quarterfinals for the second straight year as an underdog to face No. 13 Prospect Ridge Academy, 2-1 winners at No. 4 Salida on Saturday.
Name the game
VMS has a colorful postseason history with its orange, be it “The CA Game,” “Scanlan in the Snow,” and 2A state titles in 2015 and 2016, and this one will join it because as wonderful as all of the above were, neither the Gore Rangers nor many soccer teams at all come back from a 3-0 deficit.
Known as a meticulous stat keeper, VMS coach Bob Bandoni can’t remember one of his teams coming back from 3-0, much less in the postseason.
That said, as dark as it was before the dawn, Bandoni did like the way his squad was playing, despite the 3-0 deficit.
“At halftime, there was no question that we were the better team on the field,” the coach said. “We were playing true to who we are. Our passes were crisp. Our organization was supporting and framing the play. We were unbalancing the defense and playing east-west and north-south.”
The finishing touch was needed, however, so we give you madame Lamar Campbell, who is having herself quite a postseason. She moved up with Maddy Cooper in tow, and Campbell had herself one of the more memorable hat tricks in school history.
“I think we all realized it doesn’t matter if it’s 3-0 or 5-0. We still lose,” Cooper said. “Lamar went to striker, and I was a shadow striker, and we started connecting.”
The NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers have made “the process” a trendy concept in sports, but it’s really rather ancient and long practice in VMS soccer. Whether it’s “one mind,” this year’s slogan, or “one heart,” the motto of the the 2015-16 state teams, or a general statement of synergy by Bandoni, VMS soccer has always been about process.
“It’s so satisfying when you’re talking to the team and everyone in the group is nodding heads,” Bandoni said. “Everyone understands and has a deep belief in whatever we’re doing during the season and the vision of how to play, the idea of one mind.”
That said, even Bandoni thought it was a stretch coming back from 3-0. But Cooper and Campbell combined for the first two. Gish fed the third.
“After the first one, it’s like ‘At least we won’t be shut out,’” Cooper said. “3-2, it’s like it’s possible. And 3-3, we can really win this thing.”
And it was Cooper to freshman Stella Addis in what had to be stoppage time that put the Gore Rangers over the top. The whistle blew right after the kickoff resulting from VMS’s fourth goal.
And then there was a hug-pile, which might be a good name for this game.
Meet the Metro
VMS (10-7) is doing a very fine job of making a mess of the rating-percentage index. No. 21 seeds aren’t meant to be in the Elite Eight, but this would be two years in row. Last year, the Gore Rangers were No. 23 in a 24-team field and knocked off Salida and Liberty Common before falling to No. 3 Colorado Academy.
VMS will continue its tour of the Metro League. Nine of 11 Metro teams made the playoffs, including Stargate. Five of the Elite Eight are from the Metro League. Looking around the bracket, VMS is at Prospect Ridge Academy (11-6 and from the Metro) in Broomfield on Wednesday.
No. 1 Colorado Academy (16-1 and from the Metro) hosts No. 9 Middle Park. No. 3 Jefferson Academy (15-1-1 and surprisingly a Metro team) takes on No. 6 Aspen. And the fourth quarterfinal is an all-Metro affair, with Peak to Peak at Kent Denver.