“There’s a totally different vibe this year”
by Than Acuff
In just its third year of existence, the Crested Butte Titans girls soccer team is poised to make some waves this season. Their first season was about introducing the sport to the community and the players, and they were given a one-year trial season by the higher-ups in the state high school athletics board.
With strong numbers that first season, the Titans were given the green light to “officially” join the fray and entered the Southwest soccer league. In addition, their inclusion meant they were also eligible for the post-season if they qualified.
While part of the focus was still on getting the players time and experience in varsity games that second year, there was an added drive to make a name for themselves and possibly make it to the show.
The Titans came painfully close to qualifying for the state tournament. The big winter last year forced the Titans to train inside until the third week in April and that had a rippling effect on their results early in the year. But, once they were able to train outside, thanks in large part to Paul Morgan and the Gunnison schools that opened their fields to the team, they started clicking and rattling off some wins. Unfortunately the season ended just as they were getting started and they fell one spot shy of making it to the 2A state tournament.
“It was an amazing year of growth and seeing what we’re truly capable of,” says head coach Julia Kidd.
This season could be a big one for the Titans with everything working in their favor, so far. For starters, Kidd is back for her third season at the helm and is joined once again by Alexis Charles. Second, several of the girls played club soccer for West Elk Soccer Association in the fall, building on their skill sets as individuals as well as their knowledge of the game.
“They have an understanding of soccer that I haven’t seen before,” says Kidd. “It’s really exciting.”
Third, they’re already training outside on grass in Gunnison a couple of days each week during the pre-season.
“We’re getting to see them on the field, how they make space and use the field,” says Kidd. “The work between the two schools and the district in support of soccer has been incredible. There’s real synergy between the two schools—it’s a valley-wide sport.”
Kidd and Charles expect to have as many as 30 players on the team this season, with athletes hailing from both the Crested Butte high school and the Gunnison high school. While there are just two seniors on the team, the juniors and sophomores are coming in with two years of high school soccer under their belts and the nine freshmen have brought in a new level of play to push their older classmates.
“We’re starting to get players now who have always played soccer,” says Kidd.
The players will be tested, though. The first two years of the program were focused on building momentum for the sport, but this year Kidd and Charles are looking to make a paradigm shift.
“Right now we’re focused on making varsity and JV rosters,” explains Kidd. “We’re building dedication, continued development and a drive to win—keep learning but also compete. It’s a transition for this growing little program.”
The Titans will get their first test as they head to Montrose for a couple of pre-season scrimmages on Thursday, March 8. They open the regular season with two games Friday and Saturday, March 16-17, against Ignacio and Cortez.
As for expectations, Kidd is looking to see the team take their game to the next level and make a run at the tournament, and the players seem to be on board.
“There’s a totally different vibe this year,” says Kidd. “One round at state would be amazing. Making it to the second round would be a dream.”