Coal Ridge secures 3A Western Slope soccer title with 2-1 win over Rifle Thursday
An emotional soccer game pitting Coal Ridge against their intra-district and 3A Western Slope League rivals, the upstart Rifle Bears Thursday at the Titans’ Peach Valley field, was everything longtime Titans coach Michael Mikalakis would have expected.
Coaching against one of his former players, first-year Bears coach Jonathan Espinoza, Mikalakis knew his team had its work cut out to win the league title.
With the game knotted 1-1 until midway through the second half, Titans senior Ezra Williams found an opening up the middle and knocked home the go-ahead goal off the assist from junior Josh Chamarro.
After freshman Giovanni Parker headed in a shot early in the first to give Coal Ridge the 1-0 lead, the Titans gave up a goal to Rifle on a penalty kick.
“We had to really regroup, and played a lot more of a possession game,” Mikalakis said. “We were able to move the ball really well around the field, and we got a great run by Ezra up the middle. That was a great ball, and we showed a lot of patience through that final third to put it away.”
Mikalakis said he’s happy to see Rifle have a winning season and emerge as one of the top-tier teams in the league.
“We knew going in that it was going to be a physical, tough game,” he said. “I’m excited to see Rifle have a good team and a successful season.”
And with defending league and 3A state champion Roaring Fork — 10-0 winners at Moffat County Thursday — breathing down the Titans’ necks, “we had to make sure we brought the game we know we can play,” Mikalakis said.
The win gives Coal Ridge the league title at 12-1-2 overall and 7-0-1 in league — the fifth in 10 years under Mikalakis’ tutelage — while Roaring Fork finishes second at 13-2 and 7-1 in league and Rifle third at 10-4 and 7-3 in league.
Coal Ridge’s 1-1, double-overtime league tie came Oct. 7 at Vail Mountain. Since then, the Titans have scored 20 goals through four games, with wins over Palisade, Basalt, Delta and then Rifle.
“We’re a very possession-based team, and once our kids progress to final third of the field with some intensity and purpose, we know we can score goals,” Mikalakis said. “It’s just a matter of making sure we’re in the right place at the right time.”
Coal Ridge and Roaring Fork, ranked fourth and fifth in state, respectively, and Rifle, ranked ninth, now await the 3A state playoff pairings to be announced this weekend.
As it stands, both Coal Ridge and Roaring Fork would host playoff games on Wednesday. Win, and they’ll likely play at home in the second round, as well. Rifle also could host a first-round game, depending on the final seedings.
Coal Ridge will be out for redemption from last year’s playoffs, when the Titans got knocked out in the first round on their home turf.
In other Thursday action, Glenwood Springs soccer lost 4-3 at Battle Mountain, ending the Demons’ regular season at 4-8-3 and 4-4-2 in the 4A WSL.
In girls volleyball action Thursday, Roaring Fork fell to Steamboat Springs 3-1 (18-25, 25-20, 20-25, 20-25); and Glenwood Springs lost on the road 3-2 to Palisade (25-21, 15-25, 25-21, 18-25, 7-15).
In 1A football action Thursday, Roaring Fork was hosting Cedaredge. The Bruins left Carbondale 34-8 winners over the Rams.
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