Team on a serious run
by Than Acuff
The Crested Butte Titans girls’ soccer team closed out the regular season with five straight wins and won the first round of the 2A state tournament when they took down Thomas MacLaren 5-1 on Tuesday, May 7. They are now headed to the Front Range to face the number three-seeded Loveland Classical in Loveland in the quarterfinals on Friday, May 10.
Their late season run started with a 10-0 win over Center. Three days later they handed the Del Norte Tigers a 6-1 crushing on Tuesday, April 30. When the two teams met earlier this season, they finished with a 0-0 draw but this was an entirely different Titans’ team the second time around.
“Before the first game against them we had not practiced outside at all,” says coach Julia Kidd. “We just decided to show up and play.”
They carried their momentum through the next three games as they defeated the Ridgway Demons 4-1 on Wednesday, May 1 with Karina Davalos and Rachel Potoker each scoring two goals.
The team had a brief break in the action, one day, and then hit the road on Friday, May 3 for their final two games of the regular season with state seeding implications on the line.
They kicked it all off on Friday, May 3 with a 2-0 win against the Pagosa Springs Pirates with the goals coming from Tess Fenerty and Olivia Wilson and then headed to Bayfield on Saturday, May 4 and cruised to a 4-1 win. Fenerty netted two goals in that game with Annabelle Faivre and Potoker scoring one each.
“We’re just peaking right now,” says Kidd. “I keep telling them to do everything as sharp and as crisp as they can.”
The five wins left the Titans with a regular season record of 12-2-1 and in the running for one of the top four seeds at the state tournament. Finishing top four would earn the Titans a bye through the first round and some recovery from the frantic end of the regular season.
Unfortunately for Crested Butte, they ended up with the sixth seed and hosted the Thomas MacLaren Highlanders in the first round of the state tournament.
Thomas MacLaren proved a stout opponent in the opening minutes as their back four shut down the Titans flank attack and their midfield pressured Crested Butte on nearly every ball.
While Crested Butte held the Highlanders in their own half for the opening 10 minutes, the few times Thomas MacLaren did attack, they proved speedy and dangerous up top.
“It took us about five minutes to get warmed up and that was a little scary a few times watching them break through,” says Kidd.
Thomas MacLaren got a chance 14 minutes into the game as Anika Andersen came up with a save but a loose ball fell to the foot of a Highlander player. She lifted her shot but Siena Truex was there to head it clear of the goal and away from trouble.
The Titans eventually broke the scoring open in the 15th minute when Potoker broke free through the Highlanders defense. The keeper made the initial save but Davalos was there for the rebound and drilled it past the goalie for a 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later Fenerty carried the ball past two Highlander defenders to slip it past the oncoming goalie and five minutes after that, Fenerty converted on a penalty kick and within the span of 10 minutes the Titans were ahead 3-0.
“We play such a possession game that once we get in our groove, everything just starts to come together all of a sudden,” says Kidd.
Thomas MacLaren opened the second half looking to pull back in the game and threatened early, but Truex and Livie Nute shut their striker down to deny her a shot. Five minutes later Crested Butte tacked on a fourth goal as Potoker poked a pass ahead to Davalos and Davalos scored.
The game slowed down a bit but the Titans remained in control of the ball as they continued to push looking for avenues on the sides and up the middle. They added a fifth goal when Davalos completed her hat trick and Thomas MacLaren managed to score one before the final whistle, but the Titans cleared the first state tournament hurdle and now look to the next challenge this weekend.
“It was awesome and I feel like at this point in the season we’re just more in sync,” says Kidd.
The Titans head to the Front Range now as they will play third-seeded Loveland Classical on Friday, May 10 in the quarterfinal round.
“They’re coming together the best I’ve ever seen a team come together,” says Kidd. “I’ve got nine seniors and we have to just keep the momentum and keep our heads on.”
A win there will send Crested Butte to the semi-finals for the second year in a row. They made it to the semis last year before getting knocked out by Dawson. This year Kidd believes they have what it takes to make it there again.
“We’re a better team this year than we were last year,” says Kidd. “We’re not here just to compete, we’re here to win. If we continue to play the way we know how, we can make it to the semis and that’s our goal, to make it back to the semis.”