Perfection never comes easy.
Battle Mountain proved that Thursday night at Dudley Field by making the Steamboat Springs girls soccer team work for 80 minutes in the league rivals' final regular season meeting.
In the end, Kelly Labor's penalty kick about 45 minutes into the game gave Steamboat the victory, the league title and a perfect 15-0 record. It is the first time any team from Steamboat, girls or boys, has finished the regular season without a loss.
"This was a great game," Battle Mountain coach David Cope said after the game. "This is what high school sports should be about -- heart, passion and desire."
But in the end, desire wasn't enough for the Huskies, who finished the season 13-2 after suffering two loses to the Sailors.
The game turned after Steamboat senior Jenna Conlin was knocked down while firing a shot on Huskies goalkeeper Alexis Guinn midway through the second half.
The Sailors were awarded a penalty kick, and Labor rocketed a shot off the fingertips of Guinn, who almost came away with the game-saving stop.
"It's tough to lose a game like that," Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann said. "You never want to see the game get decided on a penalty kick, and I really feel for Battle Mountain. But our girls worked hard, and they created the opportunity."
After the game, Steamboat had little energy left for celebrating. The team left the field after a few hugs. Most had faint smiles on their faces, but the worn expressions told the story of a hard-fought game that started with the first touch and wasn't decided until the referee blew the final whistle.
"I was never really able to relax in goal," Steamboat goalkeeper Kirsten Ryan said. "Not even when we were in there attacking third."
The junior said Battle Mountain is so quick in the transition that she feared a lapse, no matter how small, could be the difference in the game.
Ryan made several key saves, including knocking a high hard shot from Christy Madison over the top of the goal in the first half.
She also got a lucky break in the second half when Allison O'Neill's shot from 35 yards just missed its target and bounced off the cross bar.
"I had confidence our team would win this game," Ryan said. "But when the score was still 0-0 at half time, I was scared."
Ryan said she was thrilled when the penalty kick landed in the back of the net, but she said it still wasn't enough to allow her to relax.
"Anything could have happened, so I had to keep my head in the game" Ryan said.
Although Cope was not happy about the outcome, he was pleased with how his players stuck to the game plan.
"Our girls executed very well, but the bounces just didn't go our way," he said.
Both teams will take a day off to recover before they begin preparing for the start of next week's playoffs.
Battle Moun-tain's Liz Gladitsch admits that losing to the Sailors was tough, but she doesn't think it will affect her team's performance in the playoffs next week.
"I so proud that we went out there today and played as hard as we did," Gladitsch said. "I think we will recover from this and we will be all right when the playoffs start."
--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org