Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Sailors soccer team edged a step closer to finishing in first place in the league by defeating the Palisade Bulldogs 4-2 at Dudley Field on Saturday.
The Sailors, 10-2-1 and 7-1, scored during the fifth minute of the contest when Jason Flower connected on a shot after he was fed an assist from Jason Sirois.
Cody Bergstedt answered the goal for the Bulldogs when he kicked in a 20-yard shot from the left corner of the field over Sailors keeper Andrew Litzau. Bergstedt's goal came at the 11:00-minute mark of the first half.
The Sailors were sluggish at times, as they looked unable to find a rhythm early in the contest. But Mike Rinn found the goal twice to put the Sailors ahead 3-1 at the end of the half.
Rinn's first score came about a minute after Bergstedt's goal, when he took a pass from Sirois near the front of the Bulldogs' net. The shot actually stopped just short of the goal, but a great second effort by Rinn finally gave him the score.
Rinn's second goal came on a dish from J.J. Jenny. Rinn now has 19 goals on the season. The team's victory creates a further gap between the first- and second-place spots, where Steamboat holds an advantage over Battle Mountain whom they defeated Sept. 30. The Huskies have two conference losses.
Sailors assistant coach Chris Kerlin knows his team must finish strong in its final two games of the season.
Steamboat faces Battle Mountain at 7 p.m. Thursday in Avon.
"We can definitely put some distance between ourselves if we can pull off the victory down there," Kerlin said. "Hopefully, we can get back on track with some high quality soccer and play more like Steamboat soccer."
In the second half against Palisade, John Hottenroth built on the Steamboat lead at the 53rd minute. Hottenroth's goal was assisted by Silas Cammer.
Litzau finished the match with 10 saves and the defense was anchored by J.J. Simon, Rob Zehner, Mike Holland and Andrew Johnston.
Kerlin was satisfied with the win, he said.
"It was a very scrappy game," he said. "It wasn't the prettiest that we played, but the guys fought hard and got the result that we needed."
Steamboat closes its season with a match Thursday at Rifle while regional playoffs are scheduled to run from Oct. 19 to 21.
Litzau looked forward to a showdown with the Huskies.
"I think that our game on Thursday is probably going to be the toughest one all season because we're playing Battle Mountain under the lights in their stadium," Litzau said. "It's going to be a big game for us."