Vail Valley preps: Mullen ends Eagle Valley soccer’s fantastic run
DENVER, Colorado – Only three teams go home happy in the world of high school soccer – the 3A, 4A and 5A state champions.
Eagle Valley’s 4A playoff run came to an abrupt halt at Mullen Wednesday with a 4-0 loss to the Mustangs in the quarterfinals.
It in no way diminishes what the Devils did in 2009, but it stung understandably on Wednesday.
“I think they will (understand) tomorrow,” Devils coach Jason Rittmiller said. “It stinks today. That’s just the way it is. We brought up (after the game) that in the last four years they’ve gone further than any Eagle Valley soccer team because of their work and dedication. But It’s little like shouting in the wind right now.”
Eagle Valley finishes the year 12-4-2, a record which would have been an absurd proposition before this year’s senior class started with the program. The seniors leave giving Eagle Valley its only league title (2008), four-consecutive playoff appearances and two straight berths in the Elite Eight.
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“We’ve been able to establish a program, starting with (former coach) Chad Sloniker.” Rittmiller said. “He started organizing it, and I took it from where he left off. It’s a top program now. It’s strong program with good players who want to play. We’ve won a lot of games that previous Eagle Valley teams didn’t.”
Perhaps – and this is subject to debate – this team’s greatest accomplishment was proving that the Devils’ rise to prominence in 2008 was not one-year event. Though Eagle Valley did not repeat as Slope champions in wildly-intriguing four-way race, the Devils’ title defense was a very strong one.
Suffering some tight losses – particularly to eventual league champ Steamboat Springs – and playing rugged games with those Sailors as well as Glenwood Springs and Battle Mountain likely put the Devils in a position to make a big postseason run.
The regular season, in which the Devils went 10-3-2, still had its highlights. Eagle Valley routed Glenwood Springs, 3-0, on Senior Night/Homecoming. Outside of the league, the Devils had an impressive 4-2 victory over Golden. Then there was Battle Mountain. While the Devils are still searching for an elusive win against their archrivals – both games ended in draws – they denied Battle Mountain the title with a gutsy effort in a 0-0 tie on the final day of the regular season.
And then came the playoffs. Understandably a little peeved by being seeded 18th, the Devils showed that they were much better than their seed. Eagle Valley avenged a 2007 playoff loss to Montrose with a 3-2 overtime win on a golden goal from Nate Barker.
Next up was No. 2 Wheat Ridge, the champions of the Jeffco League and a prohibitive favorite. Eliazar Saucedo scored in the third minute and the Devils used a a team effort from there to record the shocker of the 4A tournament.
Not only was that a monstrous win for Eagle Valley, but it said something about the quality of soccer being played on the Western Slope.
“We’ve been here long enough where people should know,” Rittmiller said. “We beat No. 2, so it’s clear we’re here to stay.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.