For the Summit Tigers soccer team, it’s about respect. And, as the No. 21 seed headed into the playoffs this year, the team seems to have earned it.
“Ranked 21, I think that’s the highest we’ve been ranked in a long, long time,” Summit athletic director Amy Raymond said.
The Tigers head to Pueblo today to face No. 12 seed Pueblo Centennial in Round 1 of the state playoffs.
“I’m super stoked,” Summit senior Kai George told the Daily. “I think we deserve it. Our team’s been working really hard.”
The team earned the at-large selection even after losing its final game to Steamboat Springs. The decision by the Colorado High School Activities Association seeding committee to grant such a high seed is a marked contrast to last season. It’s a sign the Western Slope League may be earning some recognition across the state.
Last year the CHSAA seeding committee ranked the Tigers 31 of 32 teams, which set up an opening-round matchup against No. 2 Broomfield.
“We thought we got the short end of the stick last year,” Tiger head coach Tommy Gogolen said.
When the Tigers took Broomfield to overtime, eventually losing 1-0, and fellow Western Slope League team Battle Mountain went undefeated and won the 4A state title, the seeding committee apparently took notice.
“Some of our results have opened their eyes a little,” Raymond said.
Goglen agreed. “It’s nice to see that we’re getting some recognition.”
The Tigers went 9-2-1 in league play this year, and were 9-5-1 overall against some tough opponents. In a year that both Raymond and Gogolen, and even George, thought would be about rebuilding, the young team held its own. The season included some convincing wins, and only once did the team lose by more than one goal once. The Tigers also ended league powerhouse Battle Mountain’s 27-game unbeaten streak.
“They proved us wrong,” both Gogolen and Raymond said.
What they’ll see from their first-round opponent, Pueblo Centennial High School, is a bit of a question mark.
“We don’t really know much about each other,” Gogolen said. “We don’t really get to play them.”
But he’s confident in his team. “They know it’s a big game. We’re used to playing solid opponents.”
Steamboat, Delta and Battle Mountain all qualified from the Western Slope, as did neighboring Southwestern Slope teams Montrose and Durango. Both leagues share four guaranteed playoff berths each season. This year Summit and Steamboat qualified as additional at-large teams.
“Six teams, that’s impressive,” Gogolen said.
“I think we’re ready,” George said of his team’s preparation. After the Tigers played two late-season games in the snow, he added. “I heard it’s going to be warmer there. I’m kind of happy about that.”
The winner of Tuesday’s game will go on to play the winner of No. 5 seed Ponderosa and No. 28 seed Kennedy next Tuesday, Oct 29.