Steamboat Springs Forgive the players on the Steamboat Springs girls' soccer team if all they wanted to do was dive into a hot tub following their 6-3 victory over Palisade.
The soak will be part celebratory and part therapeutic because four games in five days can drain the mind and body, but the knowledge that Saturday's win at Dudley Field keeps the Sailors in the hunt for the coveted league title helps the soreness go away.
"We knew it was going to be tough," Nikki Garth said. "This was the last game of a four-game stretch, and we focused and looked past the fatigue."
The Sailors' four-game stretch included games against Moffat County on Tuesday, Battle Mountain on Thursday, Broomfield on Friday and Saturday's matchup with Palisade.
Slow starts have been Steamboat's trademark lately, but the team seemed to correct the problems on Saturday, evidenced by three goals in the game's opening 15 minutes.
The first one came near the 10:00-mark when Garth passed the ball to a streaking Lia Utu over the top.
Utu beat two Palisade defenders to the ball and waited until goalie Janet Barth committed to the left before she kicked it right.
Julie Wernig added another goal about four minutes later after taking the ball at midfield and ripping it into the net's left corner near the top of the box.
Moments later, Garth's high-arching goal put the Sailors ahead 3-0.
The comfortable lead may have caused the Sailors to slack off a little on the defensive end.
Two quick scores from the Bulldogs' Melissa Thate pulled the visiting team back within one point.
The game remained close until Wernig and Tracy Lucas recorded goals in the final 10 minutes of the first half, extending Steamboat's lead back to three points.
Palisade showed glimpses of mounting a comeback when Thate headed the ball into the net off a corner kick in the opening minutes of the second half, but the Sailors were able to maintain their composure and tighten up on the defense end.
Head coach Rob Bohlmann began making massive substitutions with about 30 minutes left in the game, and the fresh legs appeared to rejuvenate the team.
Not only did Steamboat's defense hold Palisade scoreless for the remainder of the game with help from goalie Kelly Asbury the offense added another score when Garth sprinted past defenders for a head-on meeting with Barth, which Garth won.
"All of our people that don't start are a huge asset to our team," said assistant coach Stephanie Hughes. "It's great to have a solid bench."
Steamboat's depth and skill was not lost on Bulldogs coach Sean Kennedy.
"When you make a mistake, they pounce on it," he said. "They do make mistakes, but they are a skilled team. That all goes back to coaching.
"The development here is great. I love this field. It's nice coming here."