Steamboat Springs High School sophomore girls soccer player Hope Scott takes a shot on goal during practice at Gardner Field on Tuesday.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs High School sophomore girls soccer player Hope Scott takes a shot on goal during practice at Gardner Field on Tuesday.

Girls soccer team aims higher

Winning league not good enough for Sailors

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2009 SSHS girls soccer schedule

- 11 a.m. Saturday at Delta

- 4 p.m. Tuesday at Eagle Valley

- 10 a.m. March 14 vs. Glenwood Springs

- TBA, March 19 to 21 at Valor Christian Tournament

- 4 p.m. March 26 vs. Moffat County

- 5:45 p.m. March 27 at Glenwood Springs

- 10 a.m. April 4 vs. Battle Mountain

- 4 p.m. April 7 at Palisade

- 4 p.m. April 9 vs. Grand Junction Central

- 4 p.m. April 16 at Rifle

- 11 a.m. April 18 vs. Eagle Valley

- 4 p.m. April 28 at Battle Mountain

- 4 p.m. April 30 at Moffat County

- TBA, May 6 State playoffs begin

— Rob Bohlmann and his Steamboat Springs High School girls soccer team have their sights set on something more than a 2009 Western Slope League title. After all, finishing near or at the top of the league essentially has been a foregone conclusion for the Sailors.

"Our big thing right now, as far as expectations, are what can we do to close the gap from being what I consider a middle-tier soccer program and getting to the point where we can close that gap with those top-tier teams," Bohlmann said. "That's a big task that we're trying to tackle. Within the league and all that, that's not going to change. We expect we are going to battle for the league title. Us and Battle Mountain have owned that for as long as we can remember."

Closing the gap with the top teams on the Front Range should be easier this year with the new alignment of the Western Slope League. The league will be divided into two four-team divisions. Battle Mountain, Steamboat Springs, Moffat County and Eagle Valley will be in one division, while Glenwood Springs, Rifle, Palisade and Delta make up the other. Each team will play the teams in its division twice and teams in the other division once.

With this format, teams will play 10 league games and five nonleague contests.

That means Bohlmann and his Sailors will have five cracks at top teams from across the state. Bohlmann said the schedule will help Steamboat during the season and at the end of the year, when seedings for the state playoffs are handed out.

"That's where the expectations and the challenges of closing the gap between us as a second-tier program with a top-tier program are going to be," Bohlmann said.

Steamboat should be tested early during the Valor Christian Tournament from March 19 to 21. There, Steamboat will play Centaurus and Class 5A Ponderosa, which went 11-2-2 last year. The third game will be determined by how the Sailors do in the first two.

Although the new league alignment helps, the Sailors' experience could make the biggest difference.

Steamboat lost only two players from last year's squad, and it returns extensive starting experience in nine positions.

"This year, we have a lot returning," senior goalie Hanna Berglund said. "We know what's expected of everyone. This year, we want ourselves to play at a much higher level. Who we play is insignificant - it's more how we play."

Bohlmann said if there is an area of concern, it might be finding girls who can finish at the net.

"I think the known is what we have defensively," he said. "Our back four are as solid as you get. Then the center of the midfield is very much a known as well. Our questions really are, who are going to be our goal scorers? Who is going to develop that mentality to create opportunities?"

Nonetheless, Bohlmann is excited about the possibilities.

"We got a lot of returning players," he said. "It's a group that's on the same page. The dynamics of personnel haven't changed."

Steamboat opens the season at 11 a.m. Saturday in Delta.

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