Luke Graham.

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Luke Graham.

Luke Graham: Barney's memory still playing out on the pitch

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Luke Graham

Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Luke here.

Although it lasted only four minutes, the tribute at the beginning of the Steamboat Springs-Battle Mountain girls soccer game Saturday will have a lasting effect.

Steamboat opened the game with one less player than the customary 11.

For those first four minutes - and for the first few minutes of games the rest of the year - that 10th spot will belong to Ann Barney.

Barney died in a car accident in January on her way back to college, but her memory, her smile, her passion for life and her love for soccer haven't been forgotten.

Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said it's the first memorial to help the young Steamboat team remember Barney.

With only two seniors and 10 underclassmen, Bohlmann also is having his team vote after each game to see who gets to wear Barney's old No. 9 jersey.

"They vote on the player they felt best portrayed the spirit of Ann Barney," said Bohlmann, whose team awarded Miranda Schrock the No. 9 jersey for Saturday's game.

It was only fitting the tribute started against Battle Mountain. The Sailors and Huskies have a soccer rivalry that's truly special.

In Barney's four years as a center midfielder for Steamboat, she helped the Sailors win more than 50 Western Slope League games.

In one of her last games against Battle Mountain, Barney put Steamboat atop the league by breaking a 1-1 tie with a header into the net.

The moment wasn't lost on Battle Mountain coach Dave Cope. Cope, who shares a lot of the same soccer philosophies with Bohlmann, picked up the win Saturday. And although he said the win was nice, he said the tribute was better.

"That means a lot. It's a nice rivalry between these two teams," Cope said. "It's driven home to me with the tragedy of Ann Barney is that how much this game between these two teams matters in these girls' lives, how significant it is in their upbringing. Obviously, if the only thing that was fun was winning, I would have stopped coming here 10 years ago. But just being a part of a game like this is a privilege."

It might have been four minutes, but it showed how much Ann Barney's 19 years of life truly meant.

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