Sailors hope to party like it’s 1999 | SteamboatToday.com

Sailors hope to party like it’s 1999

The Steamboat Springs High School girls soccer team beat No. 1-seeded Lewis-Palmer in 1999 in the quarterfinals round of the Class 4A playoffs. Many of the players on this year's Sailors team weren't even born yet, but they hope to duplicate that achievement Thursday when the play the No. 1 Rangers, again in the quarterfinals.

— The Steamboat Springs High School girls soccer team didn't seem to have a chance as it traveled on a cool Thursday night to play in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state tournament against Lewis-Palmer, the tourney's top seed.

That team of Rangers was intent on muscling its way through the playoffs and to a championship after having fallen heartbreakingly short the year before, finishing second. To help them with that task, they had one of the state's most prolific scorers and a stout defense few had cracked.

That game took place May 14, 1999, but the similarities to the task this current crop of Sailors face is positively eerie.

Steamboat, 16-1 and this year's No. 8 seed, seems to face an almost impossibly tall task in its Thursday quarterfinal showdown on the road against No. 1 Lewis-Palmer.

The Rangers, 16-1, are again eager to bounce back from a loss in last year's championship game. They're again led by one of the state's great scorers, junior Brianna Alger, who's poured in 27 goals this season — third in the state — and they again have a stout defense that has allowed only seven goals this season.

It'll take more than fond memories for Steamboat to get the win Thursday.

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Rangers stacked with young talent

Lewis-Palmer will be the most complete team the Sailors have faced this season.

It starts on one end with Alger; she was good a year ago, as her team pushed to the state finals, but she's something entirely different this season.

She's already committed to play collegiately at Washington State, even though graduation is a year away, but her coach, Joe Martin, said she's been playing a level above all season.

Fast, technically sound and offensively creative, he said her skills can be summed up as "all of the above."

She's even generous, leading her team with 11 assists.

"She's deceptively quick and great at finishing," Martin said. "She's a coach's dream, because she's extremely good, but she doesn't carry herself like she's above anyone. … I'm just amazed at the work ethic she has."

Annica Fletemeyer has scored 11 times for the Rangers, and Sarah Lyons, 10, with nine assists; those three account for the vast bulk of the team's scoring.

Here's the problem for opponents, though: Lewis-Palmer is as good on defense as it is on offense.

The team has allowed only seven goals this season and just one in its past eight games.

Steamboat boasts a strong defense of its own, led, in part, by senior Ocoee Wilson. Certainly, in the stats column, Lewis-Palmer's D, powered by center backs Karly Sandoval and Kirsten Hatton, plus goalie Haley Arsenault, match up.

"Everyone looks at Haley and goes, 'She's a smaller goalkeeper,' but she's tough as nails," Martin said. "She has no problem going out to make saves, and she's strong when she does it."

So how does a team such as Lewis-Palmer lose? The same way most teams do, Martin said. Arsenault got caught in a rare mistake and gave up a ball over her head in the team's sole loss of the season, 1-0, against The Classical Academy. The Rangers weren't able to put away their own opportunities on the other end.

"It's going to be a good game," Martin said, looking to the Sailors. "Steamboat's had a great season, and we're looking forward to the game."

Sailors hope for repeat, 17 years later

It'll be tough, but Steamboat can take some comfort in history.

They won that game in 1999, on the road against a No. 1 seeded Lewis-Palmer team with a prolific goal scorer and a tough defense.

The Sailors took a lead with a second-half free kick from Bernadette Norman, then survived after the Rangers scored with only two minutes remaining, tying the game at 1.

The teams played through two overtimes before Steamboat finally won, sinking three penalty kicks to Lewis-Palmer's one.

"We're expecting a very good team in Lewis-Palmer," Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann said. "We're going to continue to focus on what has gotten us to this point and play the way we play."

If you go

What: Steamboat (8), 16-1, at Lewis-Palmer (1), 16-1

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Where: Lewis-Palmer High School in Monument

Breaking the Rangers down

Tipping the scales

Few teams have been able to get through Lewis-Palmer’s defense this season. Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said the key, offensively, will be throwing the Rangers off balance. Steamboat doesn’t have anyone who’s scored as much as Lewis-Palmer’s top scorer, Brianna Alger, with 27 goals, but it’s shown more scoring depth, with five players who’ve scored nine or more times.

It’ll take shots from all around the field to score in this one. Lewis-Palmer ranks first in the state, having allowed just seven goals as a team this season.

Staying sound

As good as they’ve been on defense, the Rangers have been plenty strong on offense, too. Alger is one of the top players in the state and, as a junior, has already committed to an NCAA Division 1 soccer program. Steamboat will be at a disadvantage on D, as well, after junior Maggie Henry broke her fibula in Saturday’s playoff game.

Defense has been one of Steamboat’s strengths all year, however. The team ranks tied for third in the state, with eight goals allowed. Ocoee Wilson is as good as it gets in goal, and even without Henry, she has plenty of savvy, veteran help keeping things clean in front of her.

Players to watch:

No. 24 Brianna Alger, junior: 27 goals, 11 assists

No. 15 Annica Fletemeyer, junior: 11 goals, 4 assists

No. 7 Sarah Lyons, senior: 10 goals, 9 assists

No. 1 Haley Arsenault, senior: 57 saves, 6 goals allowed