“We’re really proud of the team and what they’ve accomplished”
Well, the dream had to end at some point for the Crested Butte Titans soccer team. After a great regular season and winning their first state tournament game ever, the Titans season came to a close Saturday, October 25 falling to Salida 2-1.
They opened the 3A state tournament with a barnburner against the Manitou Springs Mustangs on Friday, October 24 at Gateway Field on the Western State Colorado University campus. The Titans came into the tournament with the seven seed and were the host team and looking to shed a huge monkey of their collective backs. The Titans have never won a state tournament game but this year hoped to change that for good.
“We had three good workouts leading up and a team dinner and I think preparations were good,” says coach Drew Canale.
Adding to the excitement, Western State Colorado University agreed to allow the Titans to host the game at Gateway Field making for an incredible venue for a state high school soccer game.
The Titans came out of the gates raring to erase the past but the Mustangs were no slouches and they came right back at the Titans with similar energy. The Titans came close 10 minutes into the game as Sam Reaman played a chip across the goalmouth. Jorge Rodriguez crashed on the far bar for the header but his strike missed its mark.
Manitou Springs responded almost immediately as three big passes up field resulted in a goal and the Titans found themselves down 1-0 in a game once again.
But playing behind was nothing new to the Titans as they came from behind in several of their games this year to pull off the win. They took the deficit in stride and continued to push maintaining their intensity and pressing for chances.
The opportunity came 30 minutes into the first half when Reaman battled with two Manitou players and their goalie for a loose ball. Reaman was fouled during the tussle, awarded a penalty kick and converted on it tying the game 1-1.
The game continued on its frantic pace with the Titans gaining an edge on possession. Nate Hoskin, Thomas Taaca, Noah Dumas and Josh Melnick held the Manitou offense in check and the difference came with five minutes left in the first half.
Crested Butte lined up for a corner kick and when the ball fell to the ground in the 18-yard box, Melnick was there to drive it home giving the Titans a 2-1 lead at halftime.
Remarkably, neither team showed any signs of slowing down in the second half. Manitou Springs drew first blood once again as they converted on a set piece direct kick to tie the game back up but the Titans responded 15 minutes later as Justin Smith broke loose on a pass from Reaman and beat the Mustang keeper with a low-driven shot.
Continued work by Isaac Evans and Sebastian Infante in the middle, with the help of Patrick Seifert, allowed the Titans to keep the throttle pressed. Their work opened up several more opportunities for the Titans but shots flew wide until the 68th minute. As Kaleb Schultz checked back to receive a pass, he turned and found Jordi Nichols slipping free and pushed the ball through to Nichols in stride. The Mustang keeper charged out to cut off the angle but Nichols gave the ball a gentle chip to beat the keeper and put the Titans on top 4-2 with 12 minutes left in the game.
Manitou Springs continued to counter the Titans attack with some wide open soccer and found the back of the net on a mad scramble in front of Crested Butte’s goal but the Titans maintained their composure to close out the first round state tournament win.