Preps preview: Checking in with 2016 Summit High football, girls rugby and more
Summit High home schedules
Friday, Sept. 23 — Summit vs. Clear Creek High School, 6 p.m. at Tiger Stadium (homecoming)
Friday, Oct. 7 — Summit vs. Eagle Valley High School, 7 p.m. at Tiger Stadium
Friday, Oct. 14 — Summit vs. Rifle High School, 7 p.m. at Tiger Stadium
Friday, Oct. 28 — Summit vs. Palisade High School, 7 p.m. at Tiger Stadium (senior night)
Varsity boys soccer
Thursday, Sept. 22 — Summit vs. Steamboat Springs High School, 6 p.m. at Tiger Stadium
Tuesday, Sept. 27 — Summit vs. Eagle Valley High School, 6 p.m. at Tiger Stadium
Tuesday, Oct. 4 — Summit vs. Battle Mountain High School, 6 p.m. at Tiger Stadium
Saturday, Oct. 8 — Summit vs. Palisade High School, 11 a.m. at Tiger Stadium
Tuesday, Oct. 11 — Summit vs. Glenwood Springs High School, 6 p.m. at Tiger Stadium
Thursday, Oct. 20 — Summit vs. Rifle High School, 6 p.m. at Tiger Stadium (senior night)
Varsity girls volleyball
Tuesday, Sept. 20 — Summit vs. West Grand High School, 6:30 p.m. at Summit High Gymnasium
Thursday, Sept. 29 — Summit vs. Eagle Valley High School, 6:30 p.m. at Summit High Gymnasium
Saturday, Oct. 8 — Summit vs. Palisade High School, 1 p.m. at Summit High Gymnasium
Thursday, Oct. 20 — Summit vs. Steamboat Springs High School, 6:30 p.m. at Summit High Gymnasium
Tuesday, Oct. 25 — Summit vs. Battle Mountain High School, 6:30 p.m. at Summit High Gymnasium (senior night)
Varsity girls rugby
Saturday, Sept. 17 — Summit vs. Palmer (15s match), time TBD at Tiger Stadium
Saturday, Sept. 24 — Summit Sevens Tournament, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Tiger Stadium (homecoming)
It’s been a good September for Summit High School sports.
For starters, every team sport boasts a winning record after the first four to five games of the season and that just doesn’t happen very often. There’s the girls volleyball team, which is off to its best start in a decade with a perfect 3-0 record outside of one early season tournament. Then there’s the football team, which lost its first of the year under new head coach John Shirkey in a 14-17 heartbreaker to Niwot (home of former coach Dylan Hollingsworth). The boys soccer team is back in form with a 2-2 record — they barely lost to league foes Battle Mountain, 3-4, on Sept. 13 — and of course there’s the girls rugby dynasty, which has a seemingly endless pool of elite All-Americans, including four on this year’s team.
Before the halfway point of the season, the Summit Daily sports desk caught up with head coaches for the five fall sports — football, rugby, soccer, volleyball and cross-country — to hear more about this year’s teams and get post-season predictions.
Consistency hasn’t really been a trademark of the Summit High football program recently. Seniors on this year’s team have played under three head coaches, and even most NFL and college squads don’t see that kind of turn over.
First-year head coach John Shirkey wants that to change. The native of Minnesota and Michigan (he claims both) is new to town and new to the culture, but he’s hardly new to football. He was an NCAA tight end and high school coach before moving to Summit, and he hopes to bring consistency to a young (and somewhat listless) team.
Whatever Shirkey is doing, it’s working. The Tigers are 2-1 for the first time in years, and it comes down to a perfect mix of old and young — something of a trademark for this year’s Summit teams. He has a small group of veterans — junior all-arounder Vale Hildebrand, junior transfer quarterback Jake Gillum, senior O-line leader Harmon Daugherty — and a massive group of newcomers, including about 20 freshmen. Some of the youngsters will see playing time, some won’t, but Shirkey wants his team to feed off pride, talent and, yes, consistency.
“It’s still early in the year and we just need to be cleaning up mistakes,” Shirkey said of the 14-17 loss to Niwot for the home opener on Sept. 9. “We had high snaps, we had turnovers at key times, but the thing that I really liked — and we talked about this after the game — is that we didn’t give up. We continued to play, and that hasn’t always been the case the past few years.”
Key league matchups: Eagle Valley on Oct. 7 at home, Rifle on Oct. 14 at home
After a decade — Summit girls rugby became a varsity-level sport in 2006 — the house that Barth built is still winning championships and dominating just about every other rugby team in Colorado. It doesn’t matter if they’re playing a traditional 15s match or a warp-speed sevens match — this program of 60-plus varsity ruggers just can’t be stopped.
So what does that mean for the incoming class of 25-some-odd freshman?
“It has a huge impact,” said Barth, head coach since 1997 when he founded the program. “They understand that they’re expected to lead from the beginning and they step up to the challenge. You have to be uncomfortable in order to grow.”
Players love the culture of Summit rugby, and that culture of growth-through-turmoil has churned out a few of the best female sides in the state and nation. This year’s team has four All-Americans: senior Jodi Losch, senior Natalie Gray, junior Cassidy Bargell and her sister, Delanie Bargell.
Add the fact these girls are already playing at an international level — Cassidy Bargell recently returned from a trip to France with the Team USA U-17 squad — and the program becomes a self-fulfilling dynasty, with class after class of players ready to be part of the next state championship.
“The whole culture and mentality is based on certain things, and one of them is experience: the experience of being in France with 12 of the best players in the country, or a summer with an All-Star team, or just going to the state championships,” Barth said. “When they can pass that on — the ability to pass on that understanding — young players either embrace it or get out of the way.”
Key matchups: New sevens opponents Lumberjack East (Evergreen) on Oct. 1 away, Fort Collins on Oct. 15 away
Last year was a scratch season for the boys on the pitch. They ended with a losing record and missed the state tournament for the first time in five years, and that was hard to swallow for a traditionally winning program in a tough 4A Western Slope with powerhouse programs like Battle Mountain and Steamboat Springs.
Unlike the football team, though, head coach Tommy Gogolen has a huge slate of seniors — 11, to be exact — and none of them want to end on a sour note. They’re 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the league after the Battle Mountain loss, but the coach is confident they’ll rack up more wins before a rematch with the Huskies on Oct. 4 at home.
“We’ve got a really good, mature team with a lot of leadership,” Gogolen said. “Last year it was no secret that we had a down year, and this year the boys worked all summer to get better. It’s paying off.”
Gogolen’s game plan relies on fast transitions from offense to defense, with wham-bam plays from the midfield to three whip-fast forwards: senior Gerson Martinez, junior Conor Craig and sophomore Farid Infante. This team doesn’t always dominate possession, but they know how to pressure a side when it matters.
The only thing missing: execution in the goal box.
“It’s about executing when we can and putting the ball in the back of the net,” Gogolen said. “We’ve had plenty of chances. Now we need to capitalize.”
Key matchups: Steamboat Springs on Sept. 22 at home, Battle Mountain on Oct. 4 at home
In nine years as head volleyball coach, Liz Waddick has rarely seen a varsity team recover from a nasty string of losses like her girls on Sept. 10 at the Machebeuf Tournament in Denver.
The Lady Tigers entered the tourney undefeated, including a commanding four-set win over Glenwood Springs at home on Sept. 8, and immediately lost two sets (10-25, 19-25) to Fleming High, the 1A state champs from tiny Fleming on the eastern plains.
“I think the girls felt like they were unstoppable,” Waddick said. “But I don’t think our girls were even close to mentally prepared for that first tournament match against a tough Fleming team.”
The Tigers lost all three tourney matches they played, but by the final game against St. Mary’s (the eventual winners), they had already learned from their mistakes. The first St. Mary’s set went to 32-30 — and coach was impressed.
“I know that they are much better equipped for the coming matches,” Waddick said with a week of non-conference games before the start of league play. “I don’t think they’ll forget what it felt like to be unprepared.”
Key matchups: Battle Mountain on Sept. 27 away, Eagle Valley on Sept. 29 at home
Tigers cross-country is used to dominating individual and team podiums, with recent stars like Liam Mierow, Ruthie Boyd and McKenna Ramsay all placing in the top-10 at regional and state meets.
But this year?
“This is a very different team than I’ve worked with in the past,” 15-year head coach Heather Quarantillo said. “We have many, many more younger runners than returning, experienced runners.”
It’s no joke: the team graduated a whopping 10 seniors last year, leaving just one senior in girls’ captain Katie Mason. The rest of the 2016 team is made up of a few juniors, plus a slew of sophomores and brand-new freshman. Quarantillo has already termed this a “teaching year,” and she’s fine with that.
“This is an exciting place to be,” the head coach said. “We have some great, young energy, and everyone is excited to learn. We’re approaching it as much more of a building and teaching year. There’s been a lot more teaching about the sport and how to run than ever before.”
All this doesn’t mean the Tigers are bottom of the barrel. The boys and girls teams are regularly in the middle of the pack, and star sophomore Morrison Donovan is well on her way to a season of top-25 finishes. Freshman Max Bonenberger is leading the boys with lightning times, and everyone will get better with stiff competition from new 4A teams like Mullen and Green Mountain.
“We hope that they find a sense of fulfillment in that they’re improving every time they race, whether that’s improving a time or a position with the team or a position with the race,” Quarantillo said. “When they get to the end of the season, I want them to be more fit and smarter racers, which will make them better as they go.”
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