Vail Valley preps: Ready for playoffs, Huskies beat Devils
GYPSUM – It was a rough night to be a goalie Thursday in Gypsum.
Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley soccer put together four finishes worthy of the highlight reel in the regular-season finale for both teams at Hot Stuff Stadium.
“Phenomenal goals,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “He absolutely hammered that penalty, didn’t he?”
And that was Cope talking about Eagle Valley’s Kevin Escobar’s penalty kick, which was a rocket. The Huskies were on the right end of three of those four for a 3-1 victory over the Devils.
For Battle Mountain, Thursday’s regular season finale was a 180 from a year ago. After settling for two ties last year against the Devils, the final draw ending their 2009 league championship hopes, the Huskies earned a sweep of their Eagle County rivals in 2010.
“Pretty sweet,” Huskies co-captain Cody Hervert said. “Thumbs up.”
Give Battle Mountain goalie Nick Vossler some credit. He came through Thursday unscathed. His second-half replacement, Christian Espinoza, and Eagle Valley’s Jose Serna could not escape, and one couldn’t fault either keeper for any of the goals scored Thursday night.
In the 16th minute, the Huskies worked the corner kick to perfection. Bryan Morales crossed it and Efren Gonzalez got into the air and headed it home for a 1-0 lead.
“The corner’s gratifying to see,” Cope said. “We have some kids who are athletic and we should be able to be more dangerous there. I thought Efren just snapped that header. Nobody was going to save that.”
With five minutes left, Sergio Sifuentes fed Leopoldo Rodriguez for a superb one-timer. Serna did well to get a piece of Rodriguez’s shot, but couldn’t stop its progress toward the right panel.
“We’ve been practicing that for the last couple of weeks and it finally paid off,” said Rodriguez, who shares the captain’s armband with Hervert. “It feels awesome. To score a goal against Eagle Valley is awesome.”
As has been Eagle Valley’s calling card all year, there was no quit in the Devils’ camp. Enrique Amenacio made a great run up the middle 55 minutes into the game. Hervert tripped him up, giving the Devils a P.K.
The way Escobar crushed his shot he could have told Espinoza he was going top-right and it wouldn’t have mattered.
“It’s always a tough fight,” Eagle Valley coach Jason Rittmiller said. “There’s never a blowout between us since I’ve got here. Both of us step it up and play a strong game.”
Battle Mountain made sure there would be no comeback when Heivan Garcia put together a spectacular run down the left side. His cross went through the box in front of Jack Sunderland, who was tripped up and looking for a foul. No matter, as Morales was there and smashed it in for a 3-1 advantage.
Eagle Valley honored its senior at half time – Jaime Silva, Chris Chavez, Ruben Chavez, Otto Jordan, Saul Salazar, Alexis Fernandez, Javier Gallegos,, Daniel Lopez, Julio Garcia, Kris Hasbrouck, Mateo Serna and Benny Fernandez.
The Class of 2011’s legacy is helping the Devils find their identity during a season of transition.
“They were the stability,” Rittmiller said. “They were the one thing that stayed consistent when so many things changed. Their leadership and guidance made the difference for us.”
Eagle Valley (7-7-1 overall and 5-5 in the 3A Slope) had rough bookends to the season with tough losses to Steamboat and Battle Mountain, ending its playoff chances, and an ominous start, including a 5-0 loss to Coal Ridge, which doesn’t look so bad in retrospect, as the Titans finished 14-1 in the 3A Slope.
In between, Eagle Valley notched a huge win against playoff-bound Moffat County and swept Glenwood Springs.
“We’ve got a strong sophomore class,” Rittmiller said. “They got experience for next year. I’m really excited for next year. We’re going to be really strong next year.”
Meanwhile, Battle Mountain finishes the season at 12-3, its most wins since 2007. With a 9-1 mark in the Slope, Battle Mountain returned to the top of the league for the fifth time in seven years. The Huskies finished the season with a seven-game road trip, recording 5-2 mark. Those two losses were to Cheyenne Mountain and Montrose, teams which will likely be seeded in the top eight of the bracket that’s coming out Sunday.
Battle Mountain hopes to be in the top 16, so that it is home for Round 1 on Wednesday.
“We need to train hard the next couple of days.,” Hervert said. “We have to prepare mentally. We can’t take these practices mentally off. Last year, we came out flat, and I don’t want to se that happen again.”
“Fourteen,” Cope said of the seed he expects. “We expect to be home at 3 ‘o clock on Wednesday. If they don’t seed us at home, it’s a travesty.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.