Huskies make it eight in a row in the Slope
EAGLE-VAIL ” Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley soccer are playing so nicely together it just makes you wonder what’s happening.
The Devils gave Battle Mountain’s league title hopes a nice boost by bouncing Steamboat Springs Thursday night, 4-1, while the Huskies helped Eagle Valley’s playoff chances with a win over Rifle by the same score.
The world will get back to normal when the Huskies host the Devils Tuesday at 4 p.m., and the normal hostilities of this rivalry will resume.
In the meantime, Battle Mountain chalked up its eighth straight Slope win. Ironically, it was against these same Bears last month that Huskies turned their season around. The Huskies were down 2-0 at Rifle before rallying for a 4-2 win, the first of their current winning streak in the league.
“It was the low point and the high point at the same time,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “You love to see things that reveal kids’ character. That one revealed these kids’ character in a positive way. At that point, they could have packed it in. But they just decided to turn it around, and they’ve been great ever since.”
The Huskies after an 0-1-1 start to the season are now at 8-2-1 overall and 8-1 in the Slope tied with Glenwood Springs for the league lead.
“The first couple of weeks, we were really slow and didn’t have confidence,” Huskies senior Wilder Heuga said. “We’ve just come out and started winning games and our confidence has gotten like a 1,000 times better.”
Having lost to Cheyenne Mountain at home Saturday in nonleague action, the Huskies were eager to bounce back on their pitch Thursday. They did so quickly. Junior Jose Pavon knocked what appeared to be a crossing pass into the box in the 10th minute, but it went by Rifle keeper Brandon Borgard for a 1-0 lead.
“When you’re playing in a team’s penalty area, you have a chance to be fortunate,” Cope said. “Jose had a couple of nice turns there. He had done some good things there, so maybe he got his just deserts there.”
“He seems to specialize in goals from awkward positions,” Cope added with a laugh, likely thinking of a similar goal Pavon had from the left side of the field last week against Glenwood.
Midway through the first half, Eric Garcia received a corner kick in the Rifle box. Instead of taking the shot, he dropped it back to Tony Seibert who slammed it home for a 2-0 advantage.
Battle Mountain’s third score was a thing of beauty. Freshman Jair Molina showed poise beyond his years.
“The thing about him, I think, is that he has a nose for the goal,” Cope said of Molina. “He also has really good vision in the box. He can see when people are in better positions than him, and he’s able to be good with the ball.”
Molina likely had a shot on Borgard, but flicked it to Heuga who did the rest.
“It was a good goal,” Heuga said. “Jair got out front. He saw me at the other post. He got it on the ground. I just stuck my foot out. Good pass.”
And that left Rifle rather stunned, down 3-0 at the half.
“When we compete, we can play with anyone,” Rifle coach Tim Taucher said. “The first 40 minutes, I think we just didn’t compete very well. That’s the biggest difference in the game. We came out completely flat. You play flat and you give Battle Mountain too much time, and space and they’ll capitalize on it.”
Rifle bounced back in the final 40 with Ryan Melody beating Huskies keeper D.J. Van Curan on a breakaway.
“Ryan’s done that all year for us,” Taucher said. “Graham Riddile set him up with a nice pass. Graham and Ryan, we thought, could do it all day. It took too long to get them going.”
And Van Curan came up with the save of the day, stoning Riddile to preserve a 3-1 lead.
“In this league, we’ve seen teams give up three-goal leads,” said Cope noting that Steamboat Springs blew a 3-0 lead to Eagle Valley earlier this season. “When you’re 3-1, and your keeper makes a key save like that, it’s crucial.”
After Van Curan made his big stop, Battle Mountain iced the game on a Rudy Solis goal from Heuga.
Battle Mountain will try to make it nine in a row in league Tuesday against the Devils. Target of attention No. 1 will be Cesar Castillo, Eagle Valley’s goal-scoring machine.
“It will certainly be a challenge for a boys to contain Cesar,” Cope said. “For the rest of them, it’s going to be a challenge to see if they can deny him the ball. If you starve the play maker of the ball, he can’t do much damage. He’s a good player, and we’ve got a lot of respect for what (Eagle Valley coach) Chad (Sloniker)’s done for the program. They’re in the playoff mix.”
Just for kicks
Heuga had a goal and an assist, helping him state his case for more playing time. With a deep bench, it’s hard for some to crack the lineup, and Cope was especially pleased with the way Heuga responded to the challenge of not starting. The coach said Heuga earned a start against Eagle Valley with his play Thursday … The Vail Daily Homecoming spotlight curse continues. After being spotlighted in Thursday’s paper, fullback Mike Scigliano took a knock to the head and missed part of the first half. He returned to play, but volleyball’s Britney Brown should be on the lookout for falling safes today. … Man of the Match went to Heuga. The Bag for gritty play is in Ricky Luevanos’ hands. … With the game out of the way, Battle Mountain soccer can enjoy Homecoming. “It’s going to be a blast,” Heuga said.” We’ve got a good football team this year. We’ve got an awesome volleyball team. I can’t wait to see how our teams are going to do. We’re supporting all our teams.”
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After losing the 3A Western Slope League race in a tough, five-set loss to Basalt on April 15, the Coal Ridge High volleyball team finds its playoff fate partly out of its own hands.