Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Youth Soccer Association had a strong showing in the 22nd annual Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament they hosted this weekend. As the veteran core of the Steamboat U-18 Girls played a final game together, winning their division at the Emerald Park Dudley Field, a younger breed of local soccer fanatics were across town at the Christian Heritage School fields, coming into their own as a competitive team to beat in the U-12 boys division.
After winning once on Friday and twice on Saturday, the Steamboat Futbol Club U-12 Boys went into their Sunday championship match against the Westminster Soccer Club Sambas dominating offensive possessions in the first half.
Capitalizing on a Westminster miscue, Jace Worden scored on a well-placed shot to put Steamboat on the board.
"Our guys might not get to practice until May, but all of them are in some winter discipline," said Ken Gold, who pointed out how the group of twelve-year-olds grew up playing together on a recreation soccer team he coached. "Whether it's hockey, ski jumping, freestyle, or cross-country, the athleticism is hard to beat from the cross-discipline training. Their better conditioned and can run guys into the ground."
The Steamboat boys outran the Westminster defense in the second half as Enrique Lopez passed a beautiful through-ball to Jonathan Milne, who outran his defender and buried the shot.
"I just kicked it into the spot where the goalie wasn't," Milne said.
Westminster's Jeff Kading cut Steamboat's two-goal lead in half as their strikers swarmed the goal line on a shot rebound. Westminster kept the pressure on in the second half, missing a few prime scoring opportunities.
Steamboat goalie Kit Croop split net-minding duties with Daniel Moran, who also came up with big saves to keep their team in the game and to give Lopez a chance to strike again, nailing the decisive game-winning shot in the top corner in front of a crowd of family fans.
"That was hard, good, fun," Steamboat sweeper Tommy Lyon said after the final whistle blew, signaling Steamboat 3-1 championship win.
Steamboat coach Clay Rogers awarded Lopez with tournament MVP honors and the team with their first-place medals, saying that the victory was "a long time coming" since their last tournament championship four years ago.
The Steamboat U-18 Girls also won their championship match against a Westminster Samba squad by a 3-1 score. Helping Jim Dudley coach a talented group, one with many of her fellow teammates from this year's Steamboat Springs High School Western Slope League Champion soccer team, Kelly Labor was pleased to see the win on familiar turf.
"For some of the (2006 graduating class of) senior girls, that's the last time they'll put on a Steamboat jersey, and it was also great for a lot of the younger girls who said they've never won first place before," Labor said.
Ann Barney, Lindsey Ellis and Lauren Letson scored for Steamboat in the win.
"They were fast and very organized in their passes," said Westminster's Ashley Guerriero, who scored her team's only goal.
Go to www.steamboat-soccer.com for full tournament results.