VMS locks up playoffs, orange
EAST VAIL ” Orange is returning to the Vail Mountain School.
Gore Rangers soccer is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, after blanking Aspen 2-0 Saturday morning at Bandoni Alumni Field.
“It’s awesome,” VMS junior Tony Ryerson said. “It’s going to be my first time wearing orange and I’m really excited for it.”
“We’re all going to be looking nice,” Jackson Higgins chimed in.
VMS’ journey to the playoffs and its Dutch-style postseason garb nearly got short-circuited in the last week. Goalie Sean Minett went down with a concussion in a 3-0 loss to Basalt. Back-up keeper Matt Stovall incredibly was injured in a 2-2 tie at Roaring Fork, opening the door for the Skiers Saturday.
But enter Carder Lamb, better known for his midfielding skills, as the team’s new keeper and a concerted defensive effort, and VMS treated its Spirit Week crowd to a win and a trip to the playoffs.
“What we tried to do is give another dimension to the virtue of courage, and that is playing by principle,” VMS coach Bob Bandoni said. “It happens at this level, that while they might believe in the principles, they first want to get a goal, and then play by principles. That’s the impetuousness of youth.”
“One of the principles we were training was our strikers coming back and offering bigger targets for us, and our midfielders always having a defender to play it back to.”
While Bandoni was waxing poetic about the impetuosity of youth, with the loss Aspen, was eliminated from postseason play.
“That decision was made for us sometime last week,” Aspen coach Dave Frances said. “It was in our hands a little. We allowed it to get out of our hands. That’s the way it goes some times. It’s disappointing for the boys, certainly for the seniors who don’t have another year. But, you know, there’s still no reason not to play with some pride and represent your school.”
While both sides were depleted ” Aspen was missing some starters due to injury as well ” Saturday’s game took on a familiar script. Vail Mountain’s Reid O’Brien was pulled down in the box during the 28th minute, giving the Gore Rangers a penalty kick.
Enter Tony Ryerson, who won last year’s Spirit Week game against Aspen with a P.K. in overtime.
“I just took the same shot as last year, put it in the same spot,” Ryerson said of the ensuing goal. “It was great. It was great the P.K. came in the first half. There was a lot less pressure on me. It was good to go out to that early lead.”
VMS added to that lead in the 37th minute when Rubin Saucedo, playing for Lamb in midfield, fed Higgins who was in all alone. Aspen goalie Alex Own made a spectacular save on Higgins’ first shot, but had no chance on the rebound.
“I got a ball that was played across the box beautifully,” Higgins said. “I tried to get it into the net and it got the goalie dead on. Luckily, I got a rebound and it was easy to put in.”
Lamb was a happy camper with Vail Mountain up 2-0. In his first varsity start between the pipes, the midfielder had some serious butterflies, trying to put down some cereal before game.
“Eating breakfast this morning, my hands were shaking. It was pretty bad,” he said. “The milk was spilling everywhere.”
The key for Lamb was getting an innocuous touch early, just to get into the flow of the game. As the Gore Rangers did against Roaring Fork Tuesday, they played very tightly in their own end, trying to limit the number of shots Lamb saw.
Lamb was grateful for the effort.
“The defense was amazing. I didn’t have a real shot the whole game, nothing that was stressful,” Lamb said. “Jackson Dowell had the best game I’ve ever seen him play. He stopped every ball that came to him. Chris (Woods) and David (DeLine) and Sean (Woods) and (Robert) Fitz were just solid.”
Lamb had five saves in all, including two good ones in the second half, parrying a ball over the cross bar and stopping the ensuing Aspen corner kick.
“As far as I’m concerned the last goalie who has a shutout is the goalie,” Bandoni joked.
Minett has a concussion test Thursday and Lamb, for one, despite the shutout, hopes all goes well.
“Hopefully, he passes this one because I do not want to play goalie again,” Lamb said.
Just for kicks
VMS moved to 9-1-1 in the Slope and 10-2-1 with the win. This is the Gore Rangers’ first 10-win season since 2002. The Gore Rangers won nine in 2004, the last time VMS made the playoffs. Nine wins in the Slope is the most since 1997 when VMS played in the Northern Division of the league with the likes of Steamboat Springs, Battle Mountain Eagle Valley, Moffat County and Whiteman, which fielded a soccer team at the time. … VMS hosts Summit in nonconference play Tuesday at 4 p.m., before finishing the regular season at Coal Ridge Thursday. Aspen (7-4, and 8-6) wraps the year at CRMS Tuesday. … VMS midfielder Blake Armstrong left the game with a concussion in the second half. … the 3A postseason bracket comes out on chsaa.org next Sunday. VMS will open the postseason Oct. 23 or 24.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.