Steamboat Springs For the first time since this year's Steamboat Springs seniors began their varsity soccer careers, a team other than the Sailors is poised to win the Western Slope League championship.
But Battle Mountain will have to go through Steamboat to do it.
The Huskies and Sailors tied 1-1 in their first meeting March 18. After the game, Battle Mountain celebrated while Steamboat kept things in perspective.
"We felt like it was a competitive game that ended up in a tie," Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann said. "We came away from that game saying, 'This is where we are right now.' We realized at that point in time, it was a competitive game. We didn't need to push the panic button that early in the season."
The tie came during Steam--boat's second game of the season. The Sailors had limited chances to practice outdoors and play on a grass field. The Huskies, on the other hand, had played three games --nd won all of them.
Since the tie, Steamboat has not been challenged. But the Sailors know today's game will be the most difficult they have played since their first matchup with Battle Mountain.
"Really, what remains to be seen is, have we been able to make some strides as far as our organization?" Bohlmann asked. "We had a lot fewer days out on the big field compared to Battle Mountain. I'm not trying to undermine what Battle Mountain has done, but we are hoping we are going into this game having improved."
Steamboat and Battle Moun--tain are unquestionably the two best teams in the league. No other league team has been within four goals of either. Although there are no guarantees that the teams won't slip up later in the season, it's likely the winner of today's game will win the league title. If the game ends in another tie, the teams will have to wait until the end of the season to determine the champion.
"We are pretty close to clinching playoff spots, but I haven't done the math," Bohlmann said. "Knowing that both will be going on, or the anticipation that both will go on, having a game like this -- where it really will count for a lot -- is great for both teams."
After Saturday's 8-1 win against Palisade, Steamboat sophomore Miranda Schrock said she was nervous for the Battle Mountain game. In practice, the girls have talked about being ready and prepared for what will be 80 minutes of competitive soccer.
This is the first time in nearly four years the league outcome is in doubt.
Being nervous and playing an important regular season game will be good for the Sailors.
"We are looking forward to it," Bohlmann said. "We know, without a doubt, it will be a great day."
The game between Steamboat and Battle Mountain is scheduled for 4 p.m. today at the Christian Heritage School field west of Steamboat.
Precipitation is forecast, so the game may be moved to Woodbury Park in Craig. Bohl--mann said a decision would be made before 10 a.m. today.
Another option is postponing the game until Wednesday, but that would be a last resort. For game information, call the high school at 879-1562.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org