Steamboat Springs Two games into the conference season, the Steamboat Springs High School girls soccer team has already taken its place at the top of the Western Slope pack.
"I thought we played well as a team today," Sailor Andrea Len said after Steamboat downed Glenwood Springs 5-0 on Saturday. "We're going to be hard to beat and I think we have a good chance this season. We set our goals high, and I think we are going to achieve them."
The team's top priority right now is winning the Western Slope conference, she said.
And the Sailors are off to a good start.
Steamboat downed Moffat County in Craig by a score of 10-0 in Tuesday's conference opener. The local team then beat Glenwood Springs to improve its conference mark to 2-0.
"We had some hard times, but we pulled it together and worked as a team. We got them," Len said of Saturday's game.
The Sailors may have had some hard times on the field in the game, but the problems were hard to detect from the sideline or in the final score.
Steamboat's first goal came on a free kick after a penalty outside the goalie's box. Jessica Fritz placed the ball perfectly above the outreached hands of the Glenwood goalkeeper and just below the cross bar for the score. The goal came 15 minutes into the contest.
Then, five minutes before the end of the first half, Len added to the Steamboat advantage with the help of a nice crossing pass from Fritz.
"I trapped the ball and turned around and hit it," Len said. "I thought about it a little bit, but I just looked to the corner and took the shot."
It was more of the same for the Sailors in the second half.
Fritz got another free kick about 12 minutes into the second half. That time, her powerful boot was tipped past the Glenwood goalkeeper by Len, who was in front of the goal on the kick.
Liz Masterson netted Steamboat's next goal near the 60-minute mark. She grabbed a loose ball at the top of the box, turned and pounded it into the goal. The final score of the day came from freshman Nikki Garth. She got an assist from teammate Andryn Arithson on the play.
For the third straight game, Steamboat's defense also proved to be hard to beat. The group of Maggie McElhinney, Lilia Utu and Abby Fritz recorded it's third shutout using a new system that drops three players back instead of four. Steamboat still uses the four-back system at times, but now largely relies on the three-defender system.
"I think we are doing really well with the new system right now," McElhinney said.
While the system puts more pressure on the defense, it allows the team to play a more wide-open style of offense, she said. It is a lot easier to play defense when your team is up by more than a couple of goals, she added.
"It allows us to have more people up in offense, so we score more," McElhinney said. "So, it works for the whole field."
Steamboat will look for it's third straight conference win Tuesday when the Sailors take on the Rifle Bears in Rifle.
"We are playing pretty good soccer right now," Sailors head coach Jim Dudley said. "But both Glenwood and Rifle have solid teams that can really push us, so we will need to be on top of our game."
The game will start at 4 p.m. in Rifle. There will also be a junior varsity game at 5:30 p.m. the same night.
--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org