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Young guns

Jeff CaspersenGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. It didn’t take Glenwood Springs’ Kendall Strautman long to make an impression. Teammate Leah Mansfield didn’t waste any time showing off her passing prowess.Demon soccer freshmen have quickly proven instrumental in the program’s success, meshing with their elder teammates to push the program in the most promising of directions: into the playoffs.Strautman, who scored a hat trick in her first varsity contest, and Mansfield, whose penchant for passing makes her the Steve Nash of the pitch, have come up big in their frosh campaigns, meshing with veterans like Chelsea Vallario, Corrina Gibson and Karlie Andreas to help Glenwood into the postseason.Midfielder Bryttnie Evans and sweeper Megan Gould have also made the immediate plunge into the varsity fire and, though they may not draw as much glory in the form of goals and assists, have been significant contributors on the back two-thirds of the field.How are these freshmen so ready for the prep game?

“I think a lot of it has to do with their passion for the game,” said Brad Jordan, who knows these players well as Glenwood Springs Soccer Club’s co-director of coaching. “It’s something we want to instill in these kids growing up, seeing whether they have it or they don’t. Lots of kids play as a social activity. That group, a good handful, really have a passion for the game.”As a National Soccer Academy director, Jordan took a group including Evans and Mansfield to Europe to train and play in tournaments last summer as part of a program called the Euro Tour.Exposure to the European game is invaluable, Jordan notes. There, soccer is virtually a way of life.”Generally speaking, our program is still on the lower end of what you’d consider a competitive level,” Jordan said. “But when it comes to the size of the town, what we offer. We’re confident in what we’re providing. There’s a lot of improvement. It’s a good base to start.”The years of club play and exposure to the international play have clearly reaped dividends, but pride has also rung loudly in shaping these young Demons.”I think a lot of it, for me, is knowing it’s varsity, the reputation,” Mansfield explained. “I push myself to play as well as the upperclassmen. In high school, soccer is for the school. There’s pressure to be the very best.”

Their elder teammates have shown no qualms embracing the youngsters.”I’m really surprised,” Evans said. “The upperclassmen are really nice.”Added Gould: “They treat us normal. If you’re a good player, they don’t care how old you are.”Exactly what heights have the 2007 Demons reached?Well, they finished up Class 4A Western Slope League play with a 10-3-1 record, losing only to rival Steamboat Springs and the juggernaut that is Battle Mountain – the league champ – in the process.And Glenwood, which demonstrated marked improvement over the course of the season, beat second-place Steamboat Springs in its finale, taking that much more momentum into the second season.



Midway through the league slate, something clicked with this team. A tough week that included back-to-back losses seemed to spark the Demons’ desire to win.”We were kind of struggling,” Mansfield said. “We didn’t know what we were doing. Playing Battle Mountain and Steamboat changed our level of play. We realized we had to push each other if we wanted to win. We realized it’s not that easy to win.”From that point on, Glenwood made winning look easy, losing only to unbeaten Battle Mountain in a stretch run that saw the Demons win eight out of the final nine games.Glenwood, the No. 24 seed in the Class 4A state playoffs, opens the playoffs today at Fossil Ridge, a Fort Collins school that matched the Demons’ 10-4-1 overall record and finished fourth in the Northern League.If the Demons’ team spirit remains potent and varsity veterans and newbies continue working well together, why can’t the Demons dream of notching a playoff win or two?”You need to trust in everyone else,” Mansfield stressed. “You can’t have a one-man team in soccer.”


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