Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Titans soccer back on winning track

Close out regular season at home October 26

by Than Acuff

After falling to the Basalt Longhorns 1-0, the Crested Butte Titans soccer team was perched on a precipice as they headed into games against the Ridgway Demons and the Alamosa Mean Moose. Additional losses could put their post-season hopes in severe jeopardy. A win or two would keep them in the hunt for a spot at the state tournament. Fortunately, the Titans shook off that disappointing loss in grand fashion as they handed the previously unbeaten Demons a 2-0 loss on Tuesday, October 8 and followed that with a 3-0 win over Alamosa on Thursday to improve to 10-3-1.

Tensions were high heading into Ridgway as Crested Butte has a history, a long losing history, in Ridgway.

“I think they were nervous because no team has ever played well there,” says coach Bob Piccaro.

Typically lethargic in Ridgway, a different Titans team showed up on Tuesday as they set the tone and pace for the game from the opening whistle. With the midfield taking charge, the Titans managed to battle toe-to-toe with Ridgway yet their attack in the final third still seemed disjointed. The Demon defense was spot-on in shutting down the middle and attacks on the flanks by Crested Butte fizzled out when they struggled to find a finishing touch in front of the goal.

While Ridgway had their chances, they too struggled to find the back of the net and the game was locked in a scoreless draw until the 38th minute when Carlos Franco slipped a pass through to Eric Lain on attack and Lain buried it in the low corner for a 1-0 lead at halftime.

“We looked good but struggled to score once again,” says Piccaro. “That goal helped build momentum at halftime and into the second half.”

The Demons took back the game the first 15 minutes of the second half but Crested Butte’s defense was in place to offer support and a big save from goalie Alex Eldridge kept the tenuous one-goal lead in place.

As the game continued, Crested Butte’s composure started to take hold once again and things started to open back up. While the Demons remained stout in their defensive third, a corner kick offered Crested Butte a golden opportunity to tack on some insurance. The initial cross slipped through the 18-yard box unattended but Finn Smith had pushed up from the backline to secure the weak side and stepped to the ball to drill a shot from 25 yards out in the far upper corner for a 2-0 lead with 15 minutes left to play.

“That was awesome,” says Piccaro. “The defense rarely gets the spotlight and to score a goal like that was incredible.”

While plenty of time remained, the second strike had the Demons down and the Titans pulled together as a team to seal the win.

“The win was huge,” says Piccaro. “You want to beat the key teams and the best teams in your league. If we had lost that one we could have easily spiraled down.”

With a big win breathing fresh life into the squad, Crested Butte hosted the Mean Moose in Gunnison and put together a quality 80 minutes of play to take another win. Crested Butte maintained control of the game through the first half but scoring still eluded them as attacks fell silent near Alamosa’s goal and the teams were tied 0-0 at the half.

Franco then converted on a penalty kick four minutes into the second half and the icebreaker proved fortuitous as Crested Butte tacked on two more goals over the next 20 minutes. Cedar Fessenden gathered a pass at the top of the 18-yard box and drilled a low shot past the stingy Alamosa keeper and the Davis McNeill capitalized on a Mean Moose miscue to sprint through and tip the ball past the Alamosa keeper to seal the 3-0 win.

“Once you put it in, it’s amazing how the door opens for more,” says Piccaro.

The Titans now have two weeks before their next match. The team has taken a break from workouts over the October Break and will return to practices next week to prepare for another tough opponent when they host Telluride on Saturday, October 26 for the final game of the regular season. Crested Butte won’t know for sure whether or not they make it to the 2A state tournament until Sunday, October 27 when the state seedings are announced. The top 12 teams in 2A get to move on to the post season.

“The players can get healthy, get caught up on life and come back recharged to finish the regular season,” says Piccaro.

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