Summit High boys soccer ready for sprint through unusual spring season
Better late than never, Tigers 10-game campaign begins at home Thursday
Months ago, when it was announced the boys soccer season would be delayed from fall to spring in response to COVID-19, Summit High School head coach Tommy Gogolen knew the potential snow situation the Tigers soccer team would be in.
March and April in Summit County often can be the most bountiful months of the year for snowfall, and thanks to a decision by the Colorado High School Activities Association, Summit is scheduled to play 10 Western Slope League games in the mountains between Thursday, March 18, and April 17.
Summit will play surrounded by snowbanks Thursday in the home opener versus Steamboat Springs, and the turf should be good for a game after getting plowed Wednesday.
So even if it doesn’t feel like soccer season up in the mountains, the Tigers couldn’t be more stoked to lace up their cleats and play.
“There’s excitement because it’s finally here,” Gogolen said. “It’s been 18 months since we’ve been together, and that competitiveness is ready to go, and we are excited. There definitely is a little rust, but the rust is coming off at a good time as we approach our first game.”
To work off that rust, Summit has braved the elements above 9,000 feet, practicing as much as it can outside since the preseason began March 8. Before official preseason practice, Summit also took part in school-sanctioned kickarounds beginning in late January.
Since the end of the fall 2019 season — in which the Tigers went 5-9-1 and missed the 32-team state playoff — Summit was able to practice outdoors once a week with limited numbers throughout the summer. But through the extended offseason, Gogolen reached out to players individually to make sure they were staying active, playing the game and working on their skills.
The Tigers were doing that in several ways, including about 10 team members meeting up at Rainbow Park in Silverthorne to train and play. Some players, like veteran leaders Andre Ayala and Ivan Gutierrez, also traveled to Denver to play in a Sunday league.
Gutierrez, the Tigers senior leader and central defensive midfielder, agreed that Summit is struggling with some rust at the start of the season, saying Summit is at 75% of where it can reach. But seniors Ayala and Gutierrez said sticking together and playing in the offseason did help keep Summit on track to ultimately reach its goals this season.
“A lot of us are naturally talented, and we’ve been playing for a very long time, a lot of us playing together,” the forward Ayala said. “We have a lot of chemistry.”
Ayala, Gutierrez and center midfielder Andrew Martin all said Summit’s goal this year is to make the 16-team state playoff, which will have half the number of teams invited compared to traditional fall seasons. In order to reach that goal, Ayala said Summit will lean on its talented, deep group of forwards making runs and benefiting from Summit’s strong midfield. Martin said the midfield is fluid, a notion Gogolen said is fueled by Martin and Gutierrez’s ability to possess the ball and have confidence to lead and spring attacks.
Gogolen said it’s taking his team some time to adjust to the speed of high school play, but Gutierrez and Martin “haven’t skipped a beat” as anchors and quarterbacks of the team. They’ll be joined in the midfield by talented sophomore central midfielder Owen Gallo who contributed to the Tigers as a freshman.
That group at the center of Summit’s 4-3-3 will work with Ayala, senior Alex Casillas and sophomore Fabian Cuevas. Ayala will bring an extra variable to Summit this year after he missed the 2019 season with a knee injury. And the former central midfielder Casillas is settling into his role as a goal scorer while maintaining his acumen from his more creative ways to lead attacks.
At the back of the pitch, Summit will be anchored by center backs in senior Jake Bell and junior Collin Doran while seniors Jesus “Che Che” Alvarado Lopez and Wylam Mocatta will split time goalkeeping.
By the end of the season, Gogolen hopes Summit develops an identity of being a dangerous team when attacking.
“I think this is going to be a team that likes to move the ball fast and attack fast,” Gogolen said. “I think we have a lot of firepower that can put the ball in the back of the net.”
• March 18 vs. Steamboat Springs, 4 p.m.
• March 20 vs. Battle Mountain, 11 a.m.
• March 23 at Glenwood Springs, 6 p.m.
• March 27 vs. Eagle Valley, 11 a.m.
• March 31 at Steamboat Springs, 6 p.m.
• April 3 vs. Rifle, 11 a.m.
• April 8 at Battle Mountain, 6 p.m.
• April 12 at Rifle, 6 p.m.
• April 15 vs. Glenwood Springs, 4 p.m.
• April 17 at Eagle Valley, 1 p.m.
• April 21 state championships, first round
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