Sailors strike back at Palisade

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Steamboat Springs didn't intimidate Palisade. The Sailors just were the better soccer team -- at least for longer stretches of Thursday's game, Bulldogs coach Sean Kennedy said.

Steamboat defeated Palisade, 6-2, to remain unbeaten in Western Slope League play, but Kennedy was pleased that the visiting Bulldogs didn't back down.

"We had some good moments," he said. "Our first touches and passes need to be more consistent. Their touches were more consistent. When our touches were more consistent, we got two goals and played with them."

And when the Sailors played at the level they are capable of, they spouted off three goals in 15 minutes that helped put the game away before halftime.

Steamboat (8-1-1 overall, 8-0 in league play) has shown a tendency to start games slow, but once it settles in and begins to play its possession style offense, it is a tough team to contain, as evidenced Thursday at Dudley Field.

The Sailors and Bulldogs were midway through the first half before Steamboat broke the game open at the 24-minute mark with what was one of the season's prettiest goals.

Sophomore Casey Garth delivered a crossing pass in stride from the far sideline as junior Allison Lewis sprinted into the box. The ball had no time to settle before Lewis redirected it past a defenseless Kelli Given in goal.

The play looked effortless, but it was anything but easy.

"A lot of it depends on how fast the player beside you is," Garth said on setting up the crossing pass. "If you can get a good touch the hardest part is turning your hips. Hitting someone right on target is pretty hard."

The Sailors struck again 10 minutes later when Lewis flipped a quick pass behind her body to sophomore Kelly Labor just past mid-field. Labor wasted little time getting past the defense and ran unobstructed for the second goal of her three.

Her third came four minutes later on a similar play off a feed from sophomore Ann Barney.

Barney finished with three assists.

Palisade pulled to within 4-2 just 10 minutes into the second half off Melissa Thate's second goal of the game. Steamboat answered seven minutes later off a score from sophomore Haley Gallagher.

Garth and Gallagher then teamed up on a perfect give-and-go near the goal at 27 minutes to bring the game to its 6-2 final.

Given made 10 saves for Palisade, while back-up goalies Lindsay Ellis, a junior, and freshman Shannon King, a first-year goalie, combined to make six saves.

Steamboat assistant Danny Tebbenkamp said it was difficult to get the Sailors to focus in Wednesday's practice with spring break on the horizon, and he anticipated today's practice to be equally difficult.

Steamboat has one game left on its schedule before break officially begins -- an 11 a.m. meeting with Rifle on Saturday.

The Sailors defeated the Bears, 5-1, earlier this season, but that was in Steamboat, and the team was at full strength. The Sailors will have neither luxury Saturday.

One advantage Steamboat seems to have over most of its competition, however, is the depth of its bench. The Sailors have used everyone on the varsity roster for at least one game this season, often at multiple positions in the same game.

"We had a good corps to choose from," Tebbenkamp said.

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