Vail Valley preps: Steamboat nips Devils on Lopez goal
GYPSUM, Colorado – Before everyone jumps to the conclusion that Round 2 of Battle Mountain-Eagle Valley soccer on Oct. 22 in Edwards will decide the 4A Slope championship, please don’t forget about Steamboat Springs.
The Sailors put themselves right back in the middle of the title chase with a 1-0 victory over Eagle Valley Friday night at Hot Stuff Stadium in Gypsum.
Enrique Lopez’s goal in the 59th minute stood against the Devils, not only vaulting visiting Steamboat into the mix of the Slope race, but washing out the taste of an alarming 2-1 loss to Summit County on Wednesday.
“More importantly, we feel really good that we knew we could do a lot better than we did Wednesday,” Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann said. “We responded pretty well. It’s easy to lose all focus. We took a little tumble and we responded well.”
And since Bohlmann does not exactly have a reputation for having emotional highs or lows, we leave it to Sailors goalie Connor Birch.
“Words can’t describe how sweet that was,” the senior keeper said.
For those counting at home, Battle Mountain (5-0-2 in league) tops the table at 17 points, followed by Eagle Valley (5-1-1) at 16. Steamboat (4-0-3) jumped up to 15 points with the win. Glenwood Springs (2-2-2) has a game in hand and has eight.
The really shocking thing out of Friday’s match was that it didn’t end in a tie. In the six meetings among the league’s top four teams before Friday night, four had ended in draws.
Lopez made sure that wouldn’t happen Friday night. After a first half where the Devils the better of the chances, Steamboat took control of the game possessing and mounting several scoring opportunities.
“It was just persistence,” Bohlmann said. “We felt like we had in-and-out rhythm the first half. Could we string some more things together? The final combination, the final through ball to get behind the defense? We found it and Enrique found a way to get a nice finish.”
Give Colton Harding some credit too. The senior sprang Lopez and then it was time to conjure images of watching TV.
“Just relax.” Lopez said. “Like Coach said, ‘You’re in a room with a sofa and a soda watching TV.’ I saw the goalie and just put it in. It felt great.”
While goals have been scarce all season among the Slope’s best, Steamboat’s most impressive feat was managing the final minutes of the game. The Sailors played beautiful keep-away, limiting the Devils to two serious chances.
On the first, Birch took a little bit of a walk, leaving an open net for the Devils’ Fidel Macias, who couldn’t get his foot on the ball for a solid shot.
“Let’s just say the light got in my eyes or something,” Birch joked.
Minutes later, David Shea came storming down the right side only to be stoned by Birch.
“My thing to them was how will they respond,” Devils coach Jason Rittmiller said. “I gave them two options, and hopefully, they’ll do the right thing. You can either feel bad and blame ourselves or figure out what we are going to do next time.”
More big games
And that is a valid point by Rittmiller. There’s a ton a soccer to go in this chase, especially for the Devils. Eagle Valley (7-1-1) has a combined four games left with Steamboat Glenwood and Battle Mountain. The Devils start at Glenwood on Tuesday night.
Those Demons are currently on the outside, looking in, when it comes to the Slope’s three state-playoff spots. That said, their only two league losses were 1-0 heart-breakers to Battle Mountain.
“I expect the same level of play out of them that we got out of Steamboat and we’ll bring our best game there, too,” Rittmiller said.
Steamboat (4-2-3) hosts Colorado Academy Thursday night at 5 p.m. at Gardner Field.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.