Zdechlik is golden and VMS goes to quarters
EAST VAIL — “Where’s the defibrillator,” Vail Mountain School soccer coach Pete Petrovski asked after his team’s 3A second-round state playoff game on Saturday at Bandoni Alumni Field.
There’s no need for that, Coach, after Eric Zdechlik scored during the ninth minute of overtime on likely one of the more ugly golden goals one will ever see, knocking off Vanguard Charter, 3-2, and sending VMS to the state quarterfinals against Pagosa Springs next week.
“I think it’s one of the prettiest goals ever,” Petrovski said. “I told those guys it’s not how we drew it up, but that’s what a good effort gets you. When you go out there and work hard and outwork the other team, things will go your way.”
Zdechlik said it wasn’t a shot.
“I was actually just trying to play Liam (Hurley) through,” the junior midfielder said. “He didn’t quite get there. It was kind of funny. The goalie missed it and it somehow got in. “
Zdechlik’s “shot” kept rolling slowly, somewhat akin to cinematic slow motion, though the Vanguard box. Coursers goalie Seth Fuqua whiffed on the ball, a cruel twist as he kept his team in the game with much more difficult saves. As a last gasp, a Courser defender dove toward the ball and ended up knocking it in.
Despite the lack of style points, it was a just result. VMS (15-1-1) had the run of play in the second half and overtime.
And it couldn’t happen to a better guy.
“Golden goal is always so fun, especially when you’re the one scoring it,” Zdechlik said. “You just get bombarded.”
His teammates flew from the sideline to jump all over him, and then he got a ride on the shoulders of his schoolmates to the team’s postgame huddle.
As is known in this small community, Zdechlik’s father, Jon, passed away this summer, and playing soccer has helped him in the process.
“It’s really great to have another family to support me,” Zdechlik said. “It’s just really nice from Coach P. and the rest of the guys.”
And while Saturday’s turn of events in overtime was a nice twist, Zdechlik has been playing well all year. VMS’ outside midfielders, Zdechlik on the left and Pablo Aziz on the right are one of many reasons the Gore Rangers are heading back to the Elite Eight for the second straight year.
Bridger over Troubled Waters?
Saturday’s game looked like it would be an easy one. Peter Ferraro slipped one inside the right post in the fourth minute and all was well. The Coursers, whom VMS eliminated in the first round last year, did not go gently.
Vanguard’s Josiah Simons scored on a feed from Alex Munoz, and the Gore Rangers seemed temporarily taken aback.
“Our guys know it’s playoff time,” Petrovski said. “You’re not going to have teams lay down and die after you score. They’re going to fight. It’s their season.”
Zdechlik scored his first goal of the game in the second half — we’re betting everyone’s going to forget about that goal in the haze of history — to put the Gore Rangers on top 2-1.
Vanguard Christian got a penalty kick at sweeper Bridger Gile’s expense, and Christopher Suddeth evened it up at two.
“Mistakes happen. Everyone makes mistakes,” Gile said. “You just have to forget about it. The next time you get the ball, the next time someone’s coming at you, you make sure you get it and not lose it.”
While the VMS coaching staff made it clear it did not think Gile committed a foul, this is the unfortunate life of a defender. The fan only notices him when the P.K. happens.
Whether or not it was a foul, Gile, a sophomore, is superb sweeper who plays beyond his years.
“We talk a lot about his athletic ability, which is unfair to how good a soccer player he is,” Petrovski said. “He understands the game. His touches are good. He knows where and when to be places. He’s an unbelievably hard-working tremendous player.”
See you Monday/Friday
And the season continues.
“I told them at the beginning of the day, ‘At the end of the game, I want to tell you that I’ll see you Monday at four for training,’” Petrovski said.
And, yes, gents, be on the pitch at 4 p.m.
Pagosa Springs defeated Jefferson Academy on Saturday to set up Friday’s quarterfinal. While VMS perhaps wanted Jefferson to pull the upset, so the Gore Rangers could avenge their only loss of the season, they’ve waited a year to get back to this point.
VMS was on the wrong side of a golden goal last year at Denver Christian during the quarters. This year, the job is to advance.
The Gore Rangers host Pagosa Springs on Friday at The Bob. Expect an early start time because storied Bandoni Alumni Field, of course, does not have lights.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.