Titans girls soccer falls to the Delta Panthers on Friday

“To get to play a team of that caliber early in the season is huge”

By Than Acuff 

The Crested Butte Titans girls soccer team got their first big test of the season when they hosted the Delta Panthers on Friday, March 15. Delta’s roster consists of a lot of upperclassmen and posed a significant early season challenge for the Titans.

“They’re a consistent 3A playoff team with a lot of juniors and seniors returning from last season,” says coach Tom Lewis.

Delta used that speed advantage to create chances early in the game with a shot to the near post in close that Titan goalie Bryce Haskell pushed wide.

“That was a really good reaction save by Bryce early,” says Lewis.

Delta continued to press and got close a couple more times throughout the first 15 minutes, but Crested Butte’s organization helped stave off the initial attacks and the Titans started to gain momentum as the half continued.

While midfielders Nora Thomes and Leigh Harpel were under constant pressure, they eventually found some room to push up field and Thomes cracked a shot from 20 yards out that the Delta keeper pushed just wide of the upper corner.

While Delta’s defense was equally stout, the Titans started to find some seams and the game turned into a back-and-forth battle as each mounted attacks and counterattacks leaving little room for concerted possession play.

“They liked to get the ball into the attacking third as quickly as they could,” says Lewis.

The wide-open play, while not the style of choice for Crested Butte, worked to their speed advantage in Molly Miller in the final five minutes. A mix of passes put the ball on Calla Fenlon’s foot and she found Miller slicing between two Delta defenders with a pass. Miller tapped by one and then buried her shot in the lower corner for a 1-0 lead at halftime.

“Overall, I thought we played pretty well in the first half,” says Lewis.

Delta’s direct play paid off as a long, high ball from deep bounced unattended between Crested Butte’s backline and Haskell with a Delta striker running full stride to poke it past Haskell tying the game 1-1 in the first five minutes of the second half.

“That was a learning lesson and we spoke about that and how to avoid that,” says Lewis.

Grace Bogard and Tegan Turner were each battling in the midfield to hold Delta’s top player in check as the Panthers continued to press. The Titans found some success on the flanks and a cross from Hadley Blaisdell dropped into the six-yard box with Titans attacking but the Delta keeper collected it before they could put a touch on it.

Delta struck a second time in the 66th minute for a 2-1 lead and the Titans’ adjustments started to show cracks as the Panthers’ pace and physicality continued to wear down the Titans. 

“I made too many adjustments and our midfield got overworked and then our defense was getting overloaded,” says Lewis.

The Titans turned the tide in their favor down the stretch looking for the game-tying goal, but Delta eventually finished off Crested Butte with a set piece goal for the 3-1 win.

“Technically we were as good but the physical side of things dropped us out of the game,” says Lewis. “It’s good to win games but it’s also good to lose games to good opponents that play at a level we will see in the state tournament. To get to play a team of that caliber early in the season is huge. We coaches learn a lot and the players learn a lot.”

The Titans have two games this week including a home game against Telluride at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 22 on the Western turf.

“This week we should have a full roster which will give us a lot of options,” says Lewis.

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