Steamboat Springs It took a pair of big second-half goals, but the Steamboat Springs High School soccer team improved to 2-0 Saturday afternoon, handling Vail Mountain School with just enough defense and a little late offense.
Steamboat broke a 1-1 tie 10 minutes into the second half when Daniel Wright scored, then broke a tie again 20 minutes later when Ryan McConnell looped a ball over Vail goalie Sean Minett.
The surge proved enough to hold off a strong second half from Vail, and Steamboat won, 3-2.
"Ryan did a nice job - calm, cool and collected to tuck the winning ball away," Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said. "It's good to have the battle within that 80 minutes, through the ebbs and flows of the game, and to still come out with the win."
The game was exciting through the final minutes, with Steamboat goalkeeper Connor Birch vacuuming up a pair of well-struck shots in the last three minutes to help ice the game.
That there was any such drama seemed astonishing after the first half. The Sailors dominated play early. Wright, a senior, scored in just the third minute, and Steamboat appeared on the verge of adding to that lead for nearly the entire half. The Sailors missed with six consecutive solid shots, hitting one of the goal's posts so hard so many times, it's a wonder it didn't topple over.
Vail finally capitalized on Steamboat's inability to finish when Robert Fitz scored on a corner kick in the 46th minute.
"This is our first game, and we were out of sync in the midfield," Vail coach Bob Bandoni said. "Oftentimes, especially in the first 30 minutes, Steamboat had their way with us in the midfield. We started to figure that out at the end of the first half and played much better in the second."
Steamboat was quick to answer with Wright's second goal of the game. Wright took a half-step lead on his defender, then fielded a pass from junior Andrew White as he approached the goal. Minett charged from the box, but Wright slipped the ball just under his arm as he dove to wrap it up.
"Andrew sent in a beautiful ball and, luckily, my defender tripped," Wright said. "I knew I had to slide it past the goalie, and I was able to."
Even after that goal, Steamboat couldn't rebuild its first-half control, and the teams traded runs throughout the half. Vail scored again on a Tony Ryerson header before McConnell's shot put the Sailors on top for good.
"It was a good game - close - and thankfully, we were able to get it done," Wright said.