Tuesday, November 29, 2005
For four years, former Steamboat Springs Sailors Kyle Nelson and Mike Holland wanted nothing more than to bring a state high school soccer title to Steamboat Springs.
It didn't happen.
But last week, the former Sailors surpassed that goal by winning a national title with the University of Colorado's gold club soccer team at the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association Collegiate Sport Club Soccer Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Holland didn't play in the final part of the season because of a knee injury, but Nelson played every minute in all six games of the Buffs' national title run.
"We all joked around when we arrived in Alabama saying that since we traveled all that way we should just go ahead and win a national title -- but I don't think we believed we had a legitimate chance until the third game." Nelson said. "That's when we all realized that we had a pretty good shot."
The Buffaloes qualified for the tournament, which was held Nov. 17 to 19, thanks to a 19-1-1 record, and defeated teams from Dayton (4-1), UTEP (3-1) and Missouri (4-1) to advance to the quarterfinals of the national tournament.
In the quarterfinals, the Buffs topped Penn State, 2-0, before moving past the defending champions Texas A&M in the semifinals, 3-1.
The championship tilt with Vanderbilt turned out to be a nail-biter.
After taking a 1-0 lead on Eric Bjork's penalty kick in the first half, the Buffs attempted to hold off the talented Vanderbilt team down the stretch. But in the final minute, Buff Nick Van Buecken inadvertently touched the ball with his hand, setting up a Vanderbilt penalty kick. The Commodores scored on the play, forcing overtime.
"Vanderbilt is an incredible team," Nelson said. "For us to come back and win in overtime says a lot about our team. We never got down, and I think we always knew that we would win."
In an ironic twist, Van Buecken atoned for his early mistake by sending a nice crossing pass through the goal box in overtime, setting up Chris Brosz's game-winning goal.
"We have a lot of talent on this team," Nelson said. "It was just great to be a part of it."
Nelson hasn't been playing a lot of soccer since graduating from Steamboat Springs High School in 2003. He took two years off to focus on his college studies at CU, where he majors in advertising. But this fall, he decided to try out for the club team along with Holland.
"It's funny because I didn't think my tryout went that well," Nelson said. "But somehow I made the team."
Nelson said more than 125 players tried out for the team, which was cut to the top 36 players. Those players were divided into gold and black squads. Nelson and Holland were selected for the gold team.
"It's fantastic for both of them," said Rob Bohlmann, who coached both players in Steamboat. "It's great that they continued to play."
Holland was the starting right back before suffering an injury late in the season that sidelined him. Nelson played left back this year and sometimes moved into the sweeper position. He was a big part of the defense that held opponents to just five goals in the national tournament.
-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org