Coal Ridge falls to Eagle Valley on the pitch, 1-0 |

Coal Ridge falls to Eagle Valley on the pitch, 1-0

Mike Vidakovich
Eagle Valley Devil Jessie Raitt takes possession of the 50/50 ball during Thursday's game against the Coal Ridge Titans.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The Coal Ridge Titans, having already faced several quality nonleague opponents on the soccer field this spring, continued that trend on Thursday afternoon at home by squaring off with the 4A Eagle Valley Devils. The end result wasn’t quite what the Titans were hoping for, as the visiting Devils managed to come away with a narrow 1-0 win in a hard-fought affair.

“We want to play tough teams,” said Coal Ridge Head Coach Damon Martinez. “Playing the better teams helps to get us ready for a very tough conference schedule.”

Though Coal Ridge came away from the contest with the upper hand in the quality shots on goal department, the deciding moment came with 30 minutes and 14 seconds showing on the clock in the second half when the Titans were called for a pushing violation in front of the Eagle Valley net. The Devils were awarded a penalty kick, and junior Zoe Booth took advantage of the opportunity and managed to slip a shot into the right side of the net, just past the outstretched arms of diving Titan keeper Annie Esgar. It was the only score Eagle Valley would need, as it proved to be the game winner.

Using an aggressive offensive attack, and some nimble passing, Coal Ridge would keep the ball on the Devil side of the field for most of the first half of play. Junior Alyssa Wenzel narrowly missed putting her team on top at the 35:27 juncture of the first half when her hard shot from the left side of the net was deflected high by Devil senior goalie Brennecke Gale. Unfortunately for the Titans, it was a sign of things to come, as Gale would be in the right place at the right time for much of the afternoon to turn away Coal Ridge scoring opportunities.

Titan Freshman Libby Tharp and sophomore Maren Hough also got good looks at the Devil goal in the first half. Hough, after some deft maneuvering of the ball, launched a lengthy kick from the middle of the field that sailed just high of the intended target as the score remained deadlocked at 0-0.

Coal Ridge continued the constant offensive pressure in the latter stages of the game with several near miss corner kicks. A golden opportunity to score also arose at the 13:40 mark of the second half when junior Adriana Vargas hit a line drive toward the Devil net, but Gale once again would be in perfect position to catch and cradle the ball to dash Coal Ridge’s hopes.

With the nonconference portion of the schedule now a thing of the past, and 3A Western Slope League play beginning next Monday with a visit from the Roaring Fork Rams, Coach Martinez and two of his seniors, Sam Dunn and Paige Harlow, feel the Titans are just a whisker away from getting things going in the right direction.

“Next Monday is a very big game for us,” Martinez said. “Roaring Fork is young, and they have a good team. It’s a tough game out of the gate for us.”

Dunn carried the look of a confident Titan as she spoke of what could be on the horizon for her team.

“We’ve worked hard this week at practice. Soon we’ll get a finish,” Dunn said. “This team has a strong connection.”

Harlow’s sentiments were much the same as her senior running mate.

“We’re prepared. We just need to work on possessing the ball more and finishing,” Harlow said.

Coal Ridge (0-4, 0-0 3A WSL) will play host to Roaring Fork (3-1, 1-0 3A WSL) next Monday, April 2, with game time slated for 4 p.m.

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