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Titans soccer back on winning track

Prepare for non-league showdown with Basalt

by Than Acuff

After losing two games in a row, the Crested Butte Titans soccer team got back on the winning track, taking down league opponents Cortez and Pagosa Springs over the weekend, paced by strong second half efforts in both matches.

The Titans lined up against the Cortez Panthers on Friday, September 30 unsure of what lay ahead for the team. They took down the Panthers 3-1 earlier in the season but after dropping their two games prior to the Cortez matchup, the team has struggled to snap out of the lull.

“The energy was still the same during workouts,” says assistant coach Prawit Durgan. “Everything was just kind of the same.”

The doldrums carried into the first half of their game against Cortez as they soon found themselves down 1-0 20 minutes into the game. As the first half continued, the Titans shook off their losing ways to take control of the game but remained out of sync on offense, missing a couple of chances to tie the game and headed into halftime down 1-0.

Crested Butte finally tied the game up in the 55th minute on a corner kick as Dylan Eaton crashed the far post to poke in a head flick from Patrick Seifert. The Titans continued to turn up their effort in the second half but the finishing touch eluded them until the 60th minute, when Alden Watkins stepped up out of the back four to take a pass from Eric Hodgers and clip a shot into the upper corner from 30 yards out.

Ten minutes later Jordi Nichols capitalized on a poorly struck goal kick to settle the ball and drive a shot over the Cortez keeper’s head for a 3-1 Titans lead. With the Titans’ defense shutting down the Cortez strikers completely, the Titans were able to keep the pressure high in the Cortez zone, and the effort paid off when Watkins netted his second goal of the game to seal the 4-1 Titans win.

Crested Butte remained at home Saturday, October 1 to host the Pagosa Springs Pirates at Rainbow Field and another slow start gave way to a fast finish for the Titans.

Pagosa dictated the pace of the game and the style of play for a majority of the first half, bringing their full throttle attack straight at the Titans. Defenders Wally Behrens and Ryan Myers remained solid on the flanks to shut off the sides but Pagosa found three golden opportunities in front of the Titans’ net only to see their shots fly wide.

“We were playing at their level and we were just panicking when we got the ball and would just boot it up the field, and we can play better than that,” says Durgan. “There was a feeling of relief at halftime, though. I think if we were down 1-0 or 2-0 at halftime, I don’t know if the kids could have picked up their play.”

Having dodged three bullets in the first half, the Titans seized the opportunity to take over the game in the second half. The squad got a boost from the arrival of Noah Dumas and Garret Peirson, fresh from taking the SATs. Dumas stepped into his role as center midfielder and had an immediate impact, turning on a pass from Seifert and drilling a shot to the low corner for a 1-0 Titans lead in the 65th minute.

The Titans defense and midfielders proceeded to hold off the Pagosa attack and dictate a more possession-style of play and the addition of Pierson on defense helped the Titans build a more cohesive attack. The Titans reaped the rewards of their short passing attack in the 70th minute when Nichols dropped a pass to Seifert and then continued through the Pagosa defense to receive a through-ball back and slip it past the Pagosa keeper to ice the 2-0 Titans win.

“They finally relaxed a little bit with the ball and started connecting passes,” says Durgan. “It was a good win. We played well in the second half, both offensively and defensively.”

The Titans will now test themselves once again when they face 3A non-league powerhouse Basalt on Thursday, October 6. The game will push the Titans to a new level, as Basalt is typically a fast-paced, talented team.

“I expect us to bring Basalt a challenge and keep up with Basalt,” says Durgan. “If we do most, if not everything, right, I think we could win.”

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