Steamboat Springs A preseason team trip into the Zirkel Wilderness Area made a lasting impression on Steamboat Springs soccer player Kyle Nelson.
Now as he and his teammates prepare for their biggest game of the year, Nelson can't help but reflect on head coach Rob Bohlmann's annual backcountry experience designed to bring the varsity players closer together.
"We went to the top of the mountain, literally, in the preseason now it's time to climb to the top of the mountain in the state playoffs," Nelson said.
Steamboat will travel to Colorado Springs Saturday afternoon to face the No.3 Lewis-Palmer Rangers. The game is slated to begin at 5 p.m.
"I'm excited to play them," Bohlmann said. "Lewis-Palmer has a rich soccer tradition and a very successful program."
The Rangers are also the state's defending champions and have advanced to the state championship game the past three years in a row. They won it last year, fell to nationally ranked Dakota Ridge the year before and lost to Broomfield the year before that.
"The positive is that we know their style of play and how they attack," Bohlmann said. "The negative is that their system of play works well and it's lethal."
Lewis-Palmer earned the No. 3 slot in the coaches' poll this year by posting a 13-2-1 record. The team lost to Liberty and Air Academy.
Steamboat last played Lewis-Palmer in 1993. That year Steamboat upset the Rangers in a close soccer contest. Another plus for Steamboat may be the two teams' common opponent Niwot.
Lewis-Palmer beat the Boulder-area team late this season in a 2-1 contest. Steamboat also played Niwot late and won 1-0.
"I expect a high level of practice this week," Steamboat senior Rodney Beall said. "We've only got 80 minutes to show those guys (on the Front Range) what we have, so we have to prepare well for this game."
Beall missed last Friday night's 3-0 win over Mountain View in the regional playoff. But Beall, who suffered a slight tear of his medial collateral ligament in his right leg, plans to play Saturday in Colorado Springs.
Both Nelson and Beall agreed the key to the Sailors' success depends on how much confidence the Sailors show on the field.
"This is a very confident team," Nelson said. "Now we just have to go out on the field and play like it. If we play up to our potential we can beat anybody out there including Lewis-Palmer."