Thursday, June 4, 2020

Titans soccer finish tough season with a win

Fall one spot shy of tournament bid

by Than Acuff

It was a bittersweet finish to the Crested Butte Titans soccer season. After falling to the league-leading Ridgway Demons 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday, October 17, the Titans rebounded to close out the year with a 2-1 win over Cortez. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late as the Titans finished one spot out of the state tournament, putting an official close to the season.

It had been a long week for Crested Butte with four games in five days, finishing with the Ridgway game. The Titans were all but eliminated from post-season play yet still had to regroup from a three-game slide to face the top team in the league.

Despite all of the time on the bus and the disappointment of the three-game losing streak, the Titans showed up for their game against the Demons matching wits with the sixth-ranked team in the state in 3A soccer.

The Demons set the tone for the game with a high-paced possession-style game but the Titans defense met the Demon attack, staving off a couple of early chances by Ridgway, including a couple of big saves from goalie Slater Weil.

“We came out sluggish from the three games prior but when we had the ball, we were composed and were still working hard,” says senior captain Dylan Eaton. “It was good to see that we can still recover and work our butts off.”

Following a frantic opening 15 minutes, the Titans settled in and started to pressure the Demons farther up the field, looking to create quick counterattack opportunities. The effort paid off 20 minutes into the game when Walker Carroll forced a defensive miscue by the Demons and carried the ball to net to blast it past the Ridgway goalie for a 1-0 lead.

While Ridgway continued to threaten to tie the game up, the defense held tough with Woody Martineau, Michael Hensley, Sully Marshall, Zane Reda, Owen Berv and Finn Smith all rotating through to keep pace.

The Titans added to their lead eight minutes into the second half when Martineau played a ball over the top and Gaby Marmolejo headed it past the oncoming goalie for a 2-0 lead.

Ridgway’s constant pressure ultimately paid off as they were awarded a penalty kick midway through the half and scored to cut into the Titans lead. Another call resulted in a direct kick for the Demons and they converted again to tie the game 2-2 and pressed hard to finish the game in regulation.

Crested Butte hung tough to hold onto the game and countered with two great chances on net but the shots were saved and the two teams headed into overtime deadlocked in a 2-2 tie.

“They were a step ahead but we stayed composed at the end and then pulled ourselves together for the overtime,” says Eaton.

The two teams traded off attacks throughout the overtime and it wasn’t until the final 30 seconds when the Demons broke free up-field to finish and edge out the 3-2 win.

“We gave it our all and left everything on the field,” says Eaton.

The Titans closed out the season on the road on Saturday, October 21 as they headed to Cortez to face the Panthers, hoping to climb out of the four-game hole.

“We definitely went into the game for the win,” says Eaton. “The four losses and missing state was a blow and we wanted to end the season on a high note.”

While the Titans proved to be the stronger squad, the Panthers were set for a battle and were tough shutting off any clear looks on net by the Titans.

Crested Butte opened the scoring 15 minutes into the game when Eaton seized on a loose ball and drove a low hard shot through traffic for a 1-0 lead.

Cortez tied the game midway through the second half on a direct kick and the game appeared to be headed for overtime until the final minute. Another Titan attack resulted in a corner kick and after the initial cross was knocked down, Oliver Houseman jumped on the ball and fired a shot through the mess past the Cortez keeper for the 2-1 Titans win.

“I thought the game went pretty well. We were moving the ball fast and had great composure and it was good to see that we could do that,” says Eaton. “In a way it was a relaxing win, which isn’t always satisfying.”

The Titans finished third in the league with a record of 6-6, 7-8 for the entire season, missing a bid to the state tournament by one spot.

“It was a good season and a good team,” says Eaton. “We had great chemistry and great companionship and I was sad to see we just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. The team definitely worked hard and built off of each other and if someone wasn’t playing well, others stepped in to pull up the slack. More so than on any other team I’ve played on, which was cool to see.”

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