It’s on to 3A state semifinals for Carbondale’s Roaring Fork soccer | PostIndependent.com

It’s on to 3A state semifinals for Carbondale’s Roaring Fork soccer

Roaring Fork sophomore Alvin Garcia works the ball upfield against a Salida defender in the Rams' 1-0 Class 3A state quarterfinal win at home in Carbondale Saturday afternoon.

An own goal by Salida 7 minutes into a 3A quarterfinal soccer match against Roaring Fork in Carbondale Saturday afternoon — coupled with some serious home-field advantage — was all the Rams needed to punch their first-ever ticket to the state semifinals.

A mostly defensive, highly physical game saw some decent offensive runs and shots on goal from both sides of the ball. But neither team could find the back of the net.

The mishap that sealed the No. 5 Spartans' fate came on a routine kick back to goal keeper Zane Timko from a Salida defender who got a little more foot on the ball than he intended. The ball rolled fast to the left of Timko and into the goal, and the No. 4 Rams found themselves with the all-important 1-0 advantage early.

Good thing for Roaring Fork, which couldn't seem to get its usually dominant offensive machine rolling, leaving it up to the defense to hold the Salida front line.

"It wasn't really bouncing for us offensively, but the sign of a great team is one that wins when they don't play super well," Rams head coach Nick Forbes said.

"We got an early break with that own goal, and I trust our defense and our midfield to hold it, and play tight," he said. "We did what we needed to do to, and now it's on to the semifinals."

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The Rams (16-1-1) carry their highest seeding in the state tournament to Denver on Wednesday for an afternoon semifinal matchup with No. 9 Liberty Common at Englewood High School. Liberty was a 1-0 winner over No. 16 Colorado Springs Christian on Saturday.

The winner of Wednesday's match will play the winner of the other semifinal that day between No. 2 Kent Denver and No. 3 Colorado Academy. On Saturday, Colorado Academy was a 3-1 winner over the only other Western Slope League representative among the 3A "great eight," Delta.

"Roaring Fork has a reputation for having a good program, and the Western Slope in particular has really come alive in last five to seven years. It really is fun to see what's going on over here," longtime Salida coach Ben Oswald said.

But, it wasn't Roaring Fork's usually potent offense that took the Spartans out of their game, Oswald said.

"What I have to be honest with is, I'm very disappointed in the field," he said of the converted football field at Carbondale Middle School that is narrower and shorter than a regulation soccer field, and without the artificial turf surface that most East Slope teams play on.

"It was like playing in a cow pasture, and after coming off our last four games on turf, which is slick and fast and where there are no bad bounces, to this … home field advantage, most definitely," Oswald said. "But, both teams had to play on it.

"We knew they were going to come after us hard, which is their MO, and they didn't disappoint in that way," he said of the Roaring Fork team.

Salida concludes the season at 11-6-2.

Roaring Fork senior defenseman Max Candela said he and his teammates are right where they expected to be at the beginning of the season.

"Our first goal was to win league, and then to win state, but we have to take it one step at a time," Candela said. "This is what we've been waiting for … everything is ours if we play good."

jstroud@postindependent.com