Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs goalkeeper Andrew Litzau has been trying to anticipate every move, shot and angle that his teammates have been throwing at him for more than a week.
If he makes the wrong move, the sound of the ball hitting the net behind him can be louder than his coaches' words. But earlier this week, the words that were flying at Litzau from the coaches were mostly kind in nature.
"That's perfect technique," assistant soccer coach Chris Kerlin shouted as he paced in front of the goal. "Take a look at him guys, that's what I'm looking for." Kerlin yelled to the other goalies as Litzau swatted another hard shot to the side.
"We have one goal this season, but we're not supposed to talk about it," Litzau said following practice. "I think we will go far this year and we will just have to see what happens when November rolls around."
The reference was to the state title game which seems to be a goal of just about every team in the state this time of year. But first things first.
Today, the Sailors will hold the final preseason practice at Ski Town Park before the start of the regular season. Head coach Rob Bohlmann has been working hard to make sure his team is prepared for the opening game, scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday against Kent Denver.
The game, which Litzau and his teammates have been eagerly anticipating since practice opened two weeks ago, will be one of the first contests of the Alexander Dawson tournament in Boulder. The event will run through Saturday.
"We have a good group of seniors on this team," Litzau said. "We've been looking forward to this season all summer and we are just ready to get going."
Bohlmann agrees that expectations for this Steamboat team are high. The group will be led by 16 seniors and several outstanding underclassmen who are still battling for starting positions on the squad.
"We are carrying a lot of momentum into this season," Bohlmann said.
That momentum has been building since last year when the team fell to Dakota Ridge in the first round of the state playoffs. This summer, the coaching staff and a group of 36 players on the club team traveled to Europe for a three-week tour. During the trip the players faced several top European sides and played in a couple of tournaments.
Bohlmann thinks the experience will give his players a boost against other teams in the region this season.
"The experience we gained over there is incredibly valuable," Bohlmann said. "I have already seen the results of that trip on the field this preseason."
The Sailors' coach didn't want to predict just how far he thinks this team will go in 2000, but did say he thinks the Sailors are the team to beat in the Western Slope's growing 4A division.
This season, Steamboat will face familiar foes like Moffat County, Rifle and Glenwood Springs, as well as conference newcomers Battle Mountain and Palisade. All of the teams will meet twice and the squad with the best record will earn the top-seed headed into the regional playoffs.
Returning starters for the Sailors include Ben Beall, Silas Cammer, Jason Flower, Andrew Johnston, Ty Lewis, Jonathan Olinger, Tyler Percy, Patrick Sidinger, J.J. Simon and Rob Zehner. Other seniors are Kory Dooley, John Hottenroth, Zach Murphy, Alan Panebaker, Danny Weber and Litzau.
Juniors Roddy Beall, Mike Rinn, Jason Sirois and sophomore J.J. Jenny also started last season and will bring even more experience to the rotation this time around. Sophomores Kyle Nelson and Mike Holland could also make an impact at the varsity level before the end of the season.
Litzau is expected to share time in goal with junior Chris Gibson.
Gibson said the team has grown a lot over the last year. He thinks that the whole European experience may be the edge the squad needs to make it back to the playoffs and be successful in post-season play this season.
"We have a definite edge," Gibson said. "Now we just need to capitalize on it."
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