Kelly Labor believed the Steamboat Springs girls soccer team belonged on the same field as 5A Eaglecrest; she just wished Saturday's score had reflected it. Playing in Denver, the Sailors fell 4-1 to the Raptors.
It marked Steamboat's second opportunity of the season to play a larger Front Range school. The Sailors dropped both games they played in the Denver area, losing to Littleton and Eaglecrest. They were the only losses for the 12-2 Steamboat team. The Sailors are 12-0 in Western Slope play.
Even in defeat, however, the importance of seeing good competition -- the challenges in league play have been limited -- isn't lost on either the players or coach Rob Bohlmann.
"Both games have been great for this team," Labor said. "We've been searching for the challenge, and we can play with these teams or better. It's too bad the score won't show it. The play is definitely there. We're aware of where we stand."
The Sailors wanted a victory over a Front Range school to enhance their chances of gaining a higher seed in the postseason, so the result was disappointing, Bohlmann said.
"But our play is still encouraging," he added. "Our possessional play between the 18s (outside the penalty areas) was solid. The difference was our lack of efficiency in both our defending and attacking penalty area. In the first half we created a lot of really good opportunities; we just didn't make the most of them."
Labor scored Steamboat's lone goal Saturday. Once she gained possession near the top of the penalty area, she headed around an Eaglecrest defender and drove her shot low and to the left post beneath the goalie's glove.
Saturday's game was scheduled in Steamboat originally. Snow forced the game to either Craig or Denver. To avoid the possibility of cancellation, Steamboat decided it was best to play in Denver.
While teams in mountain towns struggle to get on home fields because of moisture, Bohlmann said the effect the drought has had on Front Range fields showed up against Eaglecrest.
"Seventy-five percent of the field was lumpy dirt," he said. "It was not conducive to our style of play. We did, I thought, quite well adjusting. It was a challenging environment."
Steamboat returns home for its regular season finale against Glenwood Springs at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the high school field.
The Sailors already have clinched the league title but seek complete an undefeated league season when they host the Demons.
Glenwood won last year's league title.
"That's a huge goal, to finish up play undefeated," Bohlmann said. "Psychologically, if we can do that against the second toughest league opponent in Glenwood, it will give us confidence heading into the postseason. Tuesday will be a big game for us."
It also will be the final home game for the Sailors' seniors. If the weather will continue to cooperate, Steamboat's graduating class will have a chance to go out on top at home.