Look to rebound against Alamosa this Saturday
by Than Acuff
Numbers are through the roof this year on the Crested Butte Titans high school soccer team with 33 players showing up for the Midnight Madness annual ritual and then topping out at 37 players, including four players from Gunnison, by the end of preseason workouts.
“I think it’s great,” says assistant coach Ben Davis. “It shows that the program is growing. Right now we’re dealing with some injuries so the numbers help combat that.”
Due to the early onset of the regular season, preseason workouts were a bit truncated but nonetheless rigorous. Davis brings a strength and conditioning background to the team in addition to extensive knowledge of defense. He put the Titans to the test during two-a-days with a series of strength and conditioning trials, and the Titans appear ready to push even harder.
“I gave them a little more than they’re used to and I was shocked at how they handled it,” says Davis. “They did it without complaining and they did it well. I told them they might hate me at first but they would like me later and by the end of the second week they were commenting how much stronger they were feeling.”
In fact, the only time the team did crack was during their annual team hike when a missed turn led to an 18-mile, nine-hour slog up and over East Maroon Pass and back.
While the hike did what it was intended to, build team camaraderie, it did have a drastic effect on the Titans when they lined up the following day on Friday, August 28 for their first game of the season against the Pagosa Springs Pirates.
Pagosa dictated the pace from the opening kick off, pressuring Crested Butte in its own half to force several miscues. The Pirates capitalized on the Titans’ erratic play scoring two goals in the opening 15 minutes, but Crested Butte finally settled down to take charge of the game for the remainder of the half. Izzac Nixon pressed high on offense and challenged for a ball inside the penalty area, drawing a foul, and Jordi Nichols converted on the penalty kick to cut into the Pirate lead before halftime.
“I think they came in very nervous and a little gassed from the hike the day before, their play was sloppy and erratic,” says Davis. “But they got their composure and finished the first half on a strong note.”
With momentum in their favor, Crested Butte looked to step up the play to open the second half and tie the game, but Pagosa adjusted accordingly and dominated.
The pressure of the first home game and the strenuous workouts that week ultimately took its toll on the Titans as they vented their frustration and lost focus on playing their game.
The Pirates capitalized once more to build a 3-1 lead midway through the second half. Meanwhile, frustration and fatigue led to poor decisions by the Titans and a variety of infractions led to the Titans playing a man down for the final 15 minutes.
Nevertheless, they kept pressing and Nichols jumped on a miscue by the Pirate keeper to score and pull the Titans back to within one.
Ultimately, the Titans ran out of steam and fell short of their bid at a comeback dropping their first game of the season 3-2.
“The first match was a little tense and they got out of control,” says Davis. “Hopefully it was just the nerves of the first game and we’ll progress from there. We saw where work needs to be put in.”
That was just the start of a frantic first week of play as the Titans loaded a bus early Saturday morning for a series of scrimmages in Canon City and then returned home to face the Salida Spartans on Tuesday, September 1. They returned to the road to take on Montrose on Wednesday, September 2.
The Titans return to league play on Saturday, September 5 when they host Alamosa at Rainbow Park with the varsity at 11 a.m. and the JV playing at 1 p.m.
“From what I’ve seen there’s work to be done,” says Davis. “There’s a new dynamic to the team, it’s more of a full team effort. I think we have high potential and could win out the rest of our league games as long as we can get the team to click together. It will be a lot of work for both the coaches and the players.”