Edwards If not at the friendly confines of Gardner Field, why not at Freedom Park in Edwards? Short of reclaiming the 4A Western Slope in front of the home crowd, Steamboat Springs did the next best thing, beating its archrival, Battle Mountain, 2-0, on Tuesday on the road to bring the league title back up Highway 133, ending the Huskies' two-year run as champions.
"It's amazing," said Sailors junior Emi Birch, who had the game-winning goal in the 38th minute. "It's nice to regain the throne because we had it previously for so long. They had it for the two years I've been in high school, so it's nice to retake that."
Under the category of "not really surprising," Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann wasn't doing handstands, but he was pleased for his crew.
"It's awesome," the low-key Bohlmann said. "Today was important for a variety of components. No. 1 was getting back from spring break. All our players are very accountable, and they did the work individually. When you're used to playing two games per week, that's rhythm, and you break it up. It's difficult.
"We were looking to come in and be as sharp as we could. Battle Mountain's a tough draw to come in and play. So we were able to come in and get that first game under our belt and get it done against Battle Mountain, who obviously came to play today. They brought a lot of intensity. And oh yeah, we clinched the league. I'm psyched for the girls."
Steamboat raised its record to 9-0 in the Slope and 10-3 overall. In the unlikely event that Steamboat would lose at Moffat County on Thursday, the Sailors hold the tiebreaker against second-place Glenwood Springs by virtue of defeating the Demons earlier this season.
"It's a nice rivalry, and that's a good team, and they're worthy of the league title," Huskies coach David Cope said. "They can run the table in the 10 league games. They're well-coached. They're well-disciplined. When we did give them a game the first 20 to 30 minutes, they didn't panic. They stuck to their game plan. You've got to hand it to them. We look forward to wresting it back from them next year."
End of the half
The Huskies put forth a strong effort Tuesday against Steamboat, much better than in previous losses (7-1 and 4-1) this season.
"It's a shame we don't play them two more times." Cope joked.
With Steamboat coming off spring break and the Huskies playing Tuesday as if the game were their World Cup Final, Battle Mountain had chances to draw first blood. While Sailors goalie Hannah Berglund clamped down, Steamboat eventually went for the jugular in the waning minutes of the half.
Battle Mountain's Syd Idzikowski got whistled on the right side outside the box for a hand ball, setting up a Steamboat free kick. Birch arched a beautiful ball on which Huskies goalie Nicole Frye had no chance.
Up 1-0, the Sailors came right back down in stoppage time with a brilliant cross from Joanie Bier to Mandi DeVos, who stuffed it in the onion bag.
"The key thing for us, we were able to work ourselves into the game," Bohlmann said. "Battle Mountain owned the first 20 minutes, their intensity of play, closing the ball down, winning the 50-50s. They were all over that. We slowly were able to build our way into the game. Through that, we were able to build some opportunities. Emi Birch stepped forward and made the most of that free kick. Obviously, that second one was a spirit clincher."
The referees had correctly added extra time to the first half as Battle Mountain's center-back Maddie LyBarger went down in the ninth minute with a hyper-extended right knee. LyBarger, as is her style, returned and played the rest of the game as the Huskies had their best defensive effort of the season against sustained pressure.
"Those are the things which define a season," Cope said. "I think all you can ask for from a group of high school kids is that they try to improve throughout the course of a season. Our kids have certainly met that challenge. They left it on the field. They gave us maximum effort."