Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Strikers girls soccer team opened the summer season with an impressive showing at the Grand Mesa Fireball Classic.
The girls from Steamboat gave up just one goal during 160-plus minutes of soccer. The team won three games en route to claiming the title at the Grand Junction tournament. It was the team's first official games of the season and the first time this group of girls has won a tournament.
"We've only had six practices this season and a few scrimmages against local teams," coach Leon Rinck said. "This is a very talented group of players."
The limited time on grass didn't seem to slow the team's aggressive offense, which combined to score four goals in the first two games, and then two more during a shootout, which decided the tournament champion.
The key to the team's success last weekend rested on the shoulders of goalkeepers Han--nah Barkey and Sarah White, who were nearly perfect.
Barkey allowed the only goal in Saturday's action, but the meaningless score came with less than 30 seconds left in the Striker's 3-1 victory against the Grand Mesa Fireballs in the second round Saturday. Steamboat's offense provided all the support Barkey needed to win the game with goals from Meghan Rabbitt, Sydney Bauknecht and Rachel Dobell.
White and a solid defensive front that included Carly Fox, Ellana Williams, Eryn Rinck, Katie Hostetler and Maddy Schaffrick came out on the winning side of a 1-0 contest with the Denver Warriors in the first game of the tournament, which was held earlier Saturday. Dobell's goal was all the Steamboat team needed to escape with a win.
White also was in goal during Sunday's championship shootout with the Evergreen Stingers.
"It was scary," White said about facing four Evergreen shooters in the final game of the weekend. "I just tried to get into their heads and make them shoot the ball at me instead of the corners. I tried to get my hands out wide and move back and fourth as much as possible."
The plan paid off when the first Evergreen player's shot flew wide and White was able to get into a good position to stop her opponent's second shots. Evergreen's best opportunity to get the ball into the back of the net came off the foot of their third shooter. White tipped the ball, which grazed the top of her head and bounced off the cross bar. She scooped it up to end any threat of a score.
Meanwhile Steamboat's Dob----ell and Rabbitt took care of business by scoring goals for Steamboat. When the fourth Evergreen shooter missed her mark, there was no way for Evergreen to catch the Strikers, and the Steamboat team won the game and the eight-team U-12 division.
Rinck said it's a good start for the Steamboat girls, who are also scheduled to play in Fort Collins and Boulder in June before returning home for the annual Steamboat Mountain Tournament in July. The team is also planning to play in the state's competitive league this fall.