Eagle Lizzie Seibert, you and the Battle Mountain girls' soccer team just beat Steamboat Springs for the first time in school history. How are you feeling?
"It's nice. I just got here," said the freshman who had the game-winner in the Huskies' 3-1 victory Thursday. "It's nice to be part of it for my first year."
It wasn't just a freshman's response. Surprisingly, in the end, Battle Mountain's reaction was more of deep satisfaction and relief rather than outright jubilation.
It took 15 tries - Steamboat held a 12-0-2 advantage in the series - but the Huskies finally broke through against the Sailors to take the early upper hand in the race for the 4A Slope title.
"It's about time," Huskies senior Kelsey Sanders said.
"I feel like I have a little skip in my step," Huskies keeper Kori Landauer said. "It feels pretty good. This is something we've been looking for since last year when we left Steamboat."
"It's great just to see those looks on their faces and hearing the talking," Huskies coach David Cope. "I think it's a big statement for the girls who came before them, the coaches who came before them. There are a lot of people who've played a part in that."
While Battle Mountain will remember the moment for a long time, Thursday was only the fourth and third game of the season for the Huskies and Sailors, respectively. A lot of soccer lies ahead before any talk of crowning a league champion should begin.
"This is a huge motivator right now," Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said. "We've got to do it with urgency because we meet again April 7. What is that, two weeks?"
Yes, that would be 15 days until the Huskies and Sailors meet again in Steamboat.
Possession was choppy by both sides during the first half, as both teams overcame some nerves and were getting a feel for each other. Steamboat's sophomore goalie Hanna Berglund made an excellent save on Battle Mountain's first legitimate scoring opportunity, stoning Sanders on a hard shot.
Berglund stopped Julia Burnett in the 23rd minute, but the rebound caromed out to Sanders. With Berglund down, Sanders' return volley slowly made its way toward the net, barely clipping the left panel for a 1-0 lead.
"I was on my hands, and I was leaning and thinking, 'Please, please, please, go in,'" Sanders said. "A goal is a goal."
"It showed a lot about Julia Burnett's determination because she was continuously putting their backs under pressure," Cope said. "From a tight angle, she put her shot on target, and that's all we can ask."
During the break, Cope emphasized one goal was not enough.
"We weren't going to rest on our first goal," Burnett said. "That's what Cope said. We're a better team than to sit on one goal and expect them not score."
It took just four minutes into the second half for Battle Mountain to extend its lead. The Huskies had been utilizing short corner kicks, which the Sailors had not been defending, to Sanders. This time, Battle Mountain capitalized. Sanders crossed the ball into the box, where Seibert put it home.
The Huskies asserted themselves in the first 30 minutes of the second half with numerous chances.
"All practices, we've been working on, 'If you're up one goal, what do you do? Possess.' That's what really helped," Huskies junior midfielder Emily LyBarger said. "Once we were up one goal, we possessed more and controlled the ball more."
LyBarger rang Battle Moun-
tain's third goal off the post in the 60th minute, seemingly giving the Huskies a commanding 3-0 lead.
Landauer looms large
Battle Mountain's goaltending has barely been tested this season. Steamboat's Amanda DeVos had a golden opportunity in the waning minutes, only to be stopped by a brilliant save by Battle Mountain's Kori Landauer.
Accustomed to flying around for digs with Battle Mountain's state volleyball title squad, Landauer leapt to her right and, while parallel to the ground, slapped DeVos' shot away.
Steamboat got a penalty kick on the play when a Sailor was tripped up in the box, but Miranda Shock's strike went over the crossbar.
Landauer's save gained greater significance when Steamboat's Shannon King scored the first goal of the season against Battle Mountain.
"Huge," Cope said. "If it's a one-goal game, Steamboat's going to bring everybody forward. That's the kind of save that can win a game. They've been under pressure the whole time. They create one chance, and if they score, now you're in a lot of trouble."
Bohlmann was heartened by his team's rally.
"We've got to feel proud," he said. "A lot of teams, the spirit after you're down 3-nil, wouldn't find a way to punch one in. That's good. That's a positive note to leave on, for sure. The rest of it, we have a barometer of where we are right now.
"The biggest issue that we have is building from our middle third to our attacking third. We really didn't develop anything that way. A big part was that was some really organized defending and attacking from Battle Mountain."