Steamboat Springs Monday night's soccer game at Gardner Field had all the makings of a classic Western Slope showdown.
For the first 38 minutes, the game between the hometown Steamboat Springs Sailors and the Battle Mountain Huskies unfolded pretty much as expected. Both teams were 5-0 in league play coming into the game, and the Huskies had not lost to the Sailors in league action the past two seasons.
But then Steamboat's offense got the break it was looking for, and the team never looked back en route to a 4-1 victory.
"I thought the first half was really excellent. We really played well and competed and created chances," Huskies coach Dave Cope said. "If the second goal doesn't go right before halftime, it's a different game."
But when Steamboat took advantage of Battle Mountain's defensive lapse with less than two minutes remaining, the home team took the upper hand in the game. Huskies goaltender Nicole Frye tried to pass the ball up the field to a waiting teammate, but Steamboat sophomore Leah Berdine jumped in front of the pass. Berdine fired the ball into the back of the net to give the home team a 2-0 advantage at halftime and all the confidence they needed to hold the lead.
Berdine's teammate Kiersten Henry had scored the first goal of the game at the 23-minute mark on an assist from Mia Quick.
"We are trying so hard to take back the Western Slope, because Battle Mountain has had it the last two years" Steamboat junior Emi Birch said. "We are trying to get that back, and we are really hoping to get a home playoff so that we can take it further. We want to close the gap between us and the higher-tier schools."
The Steamboat goal late in the first half seemed to stun the Huskies. Battle Mountain continued to play hard, but it was unable to get the type of pressure it needed to pull back into the game.
The Huskies' best opportunity for a spark came with just more than 28 minutes remaining. That's when Lizzie Seibert unleashed a hard, well-placed shot at Steamboat goalkeeper Hanna Berglund. But Berglund handled the shot, stifling any potential comeback.
A few minutes later, Steamboat extended the lead to 3-0 after sophomore Hope Scott sent a ball in front of Battle Mountain's goal. The ball bounced off several players and eventually landed in the back of the net. Steamboat pushed the lead to 4-0 with just more than 11 minutes left to play after a Birch breakaway opportunity. Instead of firing the ball on goal, however, the Steamboat junior stopped and passed the ball to a wide-open Henry, who powered a shot past Frye for Steamboat's final score.
"I saw the lane to go to goal. But I felt like there were people behind me, so I figured I would try to stop it," Birch said. "I knew Mandi (Devos) and Kiersten (Henry) would be running up because they are always there. I decided to slide it back to them and it worked out, probably better than if I had just cracked it myself."
Battle Mountain's Seibert scored the Huskies' only goal late in the game.
"We came into tonight really looking to play forward quicker, and that definitely helped to put balls in the back of the net," Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said. "We sacrificed some of our possession, but at this point, we will take it."
Steamboat, now 6-0 in league play and 7-3 overall, travels to Rifle on Thursday to face the Bears. The Huskies will try to regroup today when they travel to Eagle Valley.