Steamboat Springs While some soccer players on the Western Slope take pride in leading their teams in scoring, the members of the Steamboat Sailors defense specialize in spoiling their efforts.
Through eight games this season, the Steamboat defenders have guided the team to six shutouts en route to compiling a 6-1-1 record.
They also have helped pave the way to a 4-0 start in the league.
"We haven't made any radical defensive changes since last season," said Sailors coach Jim Dudley. "They've just really matured as a group."
The Sailors' defense, which gave up 14 goals during the first eight games of the 2000 season, has allowed only three goals in eight games this year.
Steamboat lost 2-1 to Boulder and gave up a goal during a 2-1 victory over Standley Lake.
Maggie McElhinney, outside defender, said the Sailors have been successful because of their ability to communicate well together on the field.
Lia Utu, Abby Fritz and Cassidy Kurtz join McElhinney on the starting defense.
"There is a lot of teamwork with the four of us and we've been continuing to cover each others' backs," McElhinney said.
Steamboat has shut out its last four opponents, including Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Battle Mountain.
Last Thursday, they clobbered the Moffat County Bulldogs, 7-0.
Kelly Asbury, a junior goalkeeper, said the aggressive play of the defense has made her job almost too easy.
But Asbury, along with Jannike Combs, who also plays goalkeeper, has been a major contributor to the Sailors' shutout victories.
"Since we played with each other last year, I think we learned to communicate on the field and play with our hearts and shoot for our main goal, which is to win state," Asbury said.
Combs, a sophomore, said there will be no letup as the Sailors enter the second half of the season.
Steamboat has eight regular-season games remaining, including a date with the Palisade Bulldogs at 11 a.m. Saturday at Palisade.
The Sailors enter with the best record in the league.
"To be where we are is a dream," Dudley said. "You always dream about running through the league undefeated, and so far they have accomplished that."