Fall sports preview: Rifle feels its foundations are set

Jon Mitchell
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
Rifle junior Jose Juarez, left, takes a shot on goal in the Bears' scrimmage against Aspen this past Saturday at Gates Soccer Park south of Glenwood Springs. The Bears return seven starters from last year's team.
Jon Mitchell / |



Head coach: Erin Reider (Fourth season).

Last season: 6-17 overall, 2-7 Class 3A Western Slope League (eighth place), ended season after going 1-3 in pool play of the Class 3A WSL District Tournament.

Key returners: Jordan Cody, Sr., OH; Sarah McCutchan, Sr., S; Annie Schmidt, Jr., MH.

Others to watch: Katelyn Shanahan, Sr., OH; Ksan Bruekmann, Soph., L; Leah Antonelli, Sr., OH.

Outlook: With the Bears preparing to move up a classification next season, they attended a pair of volleyball camps in Denver and a team camp at Colorado State in Fort Collins to work on more up-tempo play. The summer tournaments, Reider said, also helped to build up the team’s chemistry off the court. One of the people Reider credited for preparing the Bears for this season is new junior varsity coach Dennis Sunderland, who she said has worked as a club coach in the area. All of that combined help make Rifle much more competitive headed into its final season in 3A.


Head coach: Rich Carter (Third season).

Last season: 2-13-0 overall, 1-12-0 4A Western Slope League (eighth place), no postseason.

Key returners: Junior Colvillo, Sr., MF; David Villalvazo, Sr., MF; Ryan Bell, Sr., D; Alex Rivas, Jr., D; Jose Juarez, Jr., D; Micah Ziegler, Sr., GK; David Salgado, Sr., GK.

Others to watch: Alex Ramos, Fr., MF; Luis Carreon, Soph., D.

Outlook: Rifle’s early season emphasis will focus on keeping possession of the ball, limiting the amount of touches the players make while emphasizing ball movement. That game plan is in an effort to create more opportunities on offense. The Bears, however, enter the season without an established goal scorer, and Carter is hoping to find one by the time the regular season begins on Sept. 12 at home against Eagle Valley.


Head coach: Cindy Skinner (17th season).

Last season: 9-9-1 overall, 3-3 Class 4A Western Slope League (second place), no postseason.

Key returners: Emma Speer, Sr., SS; Brittany Neuroth, Sr., C; Mary Wright, Sr., OF; Antonia Booth, Jr., 3B; Melissa Steinbach, Jr., OF; Emily Neuroth, Soph., UT.

Others to watch: Taylor Gore, Sr., P; Jordan Smith, Sr., OF; Allie Magee, Jr., OF/P; Chante Church, Sr., IF; Taylor Morris, Sr., UT; Jenny Cross, Sr., P/IF.

Outlook: Speer and Brittany Neuroth are expected to be solid hitters in the Bears’ lineup this season. Speer hit a team-high four home runs and scored 31 runs with a .470 batting average, and Neuroth hit .586 with a team-leading 30 RBIs. Skinner, however, feels her team’s defense will be the key to its success this year. Gore, who logged all but three innings on the pitching rubber last season, will be the Bears’ top pitcher again.


Head coach: Ben Bradley (Second season).

Last season: Boys team finished 8th in Class 4A Regional meet; had one individual state qualifier (Jake Statler).

Key returners: Boys — John Coombs, Sr.; Erik Mendez, Sr.; Brenden Wagler, Jr.; Colby Rennie, Jr. Girls — Kelly Coombs, Jr.; Brenda Delorea, Jr.

Others to watch: Boys — Gabe Marbas, Fr.; Jack Rubalcave, Fr.; Adrain Chavez, Soph. Girls — Ashlyn Taylor, Jr.; Bailey Rogers, Sr.

Outlook: Bradley is more focused on the individual goals that his team members have set this season, with the primary emphasis being on getting better each meet. “Everyone wants improvement, and everyone pushes improvement from each other,” the coach said. “There’s good, healthy competition from within the team right now, and that’s going to make us better as a whole by the end of the year.”

Rifle High School’s volleyball team has been in a building process for the past three seasons. Now, the Bears feel like they’re ready to take the next step.

“This year,” fourth-year Rifle coach Erin Reider said, “we’re planning on competing for postseason play.”

Rifle, as a school, made the move to Class 4A from 3A last year but kept playing volleyball at the 3A level. The Colorado High School Activities Association allowed the volleyball program to remain in 3A since the program had struggled to compete at that level.

Now Rifle, with an enrollment of more than 700, will have no choice but for its volleyball program to move up a classification in 2014. This season, however, the Bears feel they’re ready to compete for a postseason spot amid the traditionally tough teams like Roaring Fork and Gunnison in the 3A Western Slope League.

“Consistency and defense are going to be the big keys for us,” Reider said. “I don’t know for sure, but I think shooting for the top three or four is pretty reasonable.”

Rifle’s softball team took a step forward last season during its first year back at the Class 4A level. Veteran coach Cindy Skinner was happy with the 9-9-1 overall campaign the Bears had in 2012, and she hopes it can carry over into this season.

“I think the knowledge and experience we gained last year will help make us a little more solid this year,” she said.

The school’s other fall sports teams feel like they’ll be ready to compete in 2013 as well.

Rifle’s boys soccer team will return seven starters from last year’s team. Bears coach Rich Carter, now in his third season, thinks there’s a good chance his team can be much more competitive than last season’s 2-13-0 campaign.

“I think we finished the season strong,” said Carter, referring to the Bears’ 2-1 loss to rival Glenwood Springs in last year’s season finale. “This season, I’d like for us to start the season strong.”

Rifle’s cross country team feels it has some promise, also. Second-year coach Ben Bradley thinks the Bears, whose lone representative at the Class 4A state cross country meet was graduated senior Jake Statler, can have a better showing this year.

“A lot of people made a commitment to the program in the summertime,” Bradley said. “There’s a lot of high ambitions his year, and these guys understand what it takes to compete at a high level.”

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