Low numbers don’t keep Cards down | PostIndependent.com

Low numbers don’t keep Cards down

Jon Mitchell
Grand Valley High School goalkeeper Alex Schuckers braces for an impact from Roaring Fork's Aaron Palomera during Saturday morning's Class 3A Western Slope League soccer match in Carbondale. The Cardinals, winless this year, have persevered despite low numbers and a tough league schedule.
Jon Mitchell / Post Independent |

CARBONDALE — Grand Valley High School’s boys soccer team has been playing a numbers game this season — a numbers game that doesn’t involve the scoreboard.

That’s because the Cardinals have been at a numbers disadvantage for much of the season. A low turnout this year left the program without a junior varsity squad, which in turn led to a roster that has just two upperclassmen and zero — repeat, zero! — seniors on it.

Those factors, coupled with league competition that includes perennial playoff contenders like Coal Ridge, Roaring Fork, Vail Mountain and Basalt, have helped lead to zero wins for the Cardinals in the 2014 season.

Yet after all of that, there’s a surprising number of players who plan not to return for the 2015 boys soccer season. That number, undoubtedly, is zero.

“That’s the great thing about this season,” Grand Valley sophomore Alex Schuckers said. “We’re not going to lose anybody from this year.”

Granted, that numbers issue came to the forefront for the Cardinals (0-14-0, 0-6-0 league) again on Saturday during their 11-0 loss to first-place Roaring Fork. Grand Valley was only able to field nine players against the Rams, who made sure to stay in the league title race by taking an 8-0 halftime lead.

That’s bean a constant outcome for the Cardinals this season, and mainly because of the numbers disadvantage they’ve faced. Grand Valley coach Chris Walker said that of the 13 players listed on the Cardinals’ roster, only eight of them have been able to commit fully to the team throughout the season. Players have had to miss games because of work commitments in Parachute or academic functions that required travel.

Because of those, the Cardinals, Walker said, have had to play shorthanded in several games this season and had to forfeit a game against Basalt on Sept. 20. Against Rifle on Sept. 25 — a 9-2 victory for the Bears — Grand Valley was only able to field nine players. Because of that, Rifle matched them player for player instead of fielding the typical 11 during the game.

“I didn’t want to embarrass them,” said Rifle coach Rich Carter, whose team dropped down to 3A this season after seeing little success at the 4A level for four seasons. “I’ve been there before on that end of the scoreboard, and I know how tough it is.”

Those two second-half goals Grand Valley scored against the Bears were the first the Cardinals had scored during league play after they were outscored 37-0 in its previous four league games. The focus this year, however, has been on learning fundamental soccer rather than setting goals in the win-loss column.

“There’s a lot of times when we only have 11 people at practice, so we’re not able to scrimmage each other at all,” Walker said. “So to me, this is like a second practice time for us because it gives us a chance to work on things we can’t do against ourselves.”

Despite the low turnout, Walker admitted that many of the players on the roster wouldn’t participate on a fall sports team if boys soccer wasn’t available.

The players on Grand Valley’s roster include Luis Chavarria, Israel Cornejo, Matthew Cornelius, Jonathan Downing, Russell Fadeland, Marcos Flores, Wyatt Kuper, Lionel Pena, Jesus Raygoza, Cristian Reyes, Schuckers, Damon Snyder and Cristian Vicencio. Fadeland and Raygoza — both juniors — are the only upperclassmen on the team.

It’s a team, however, that plans to stick around and be much better next season.

“It’s not like we’ll have to start a whole new team, and we kind of did that this year,” Schuckers said. “We’ll be a lot better by next season.”

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