Summit soccer fights for a much-needed win, 1-0 |

Summit soccer fights for a much-needed win, 1-0

Summit vs. Delta

Score 1st 2nd Final

Summit 1 0 1

Delta 0 0 0

FRISCO — Tigers soccer needed this one.

After a surprise loss to Delta (3-11) earlier this season, Summit (3-10) rebounded on Saturday at home for a much-needed morale booster, beating the Panthers 1-0 with less than a week left in the season.

Summit’s varsity crew outpaced and outplayed Delta in a scrappy match, one with plenty of (mostly) clean contact in the box and 50-50 battles in the midfield. It’s the sort of ball head coach Tommy Gogolen likes to see from his “hardnosed” team, and it’s the sort of ball that’s earned them two wins against Palisade (the only wins of the season until Saturday) and led to tight, hard-fought matches against the former 4A Western Slope leader, Steamboat Springs.

“The boys played well,” Gogolen said of the Delta game. “We found how to maintain possession. We lost to them once this year, but knew we’d be the better team going into this match. I told the boys to play like we’re the better team.”

Now, that hardnosed brand of soccer is also the sort of ball that draws ire from the sidelines, particularly when two teams with losing records are fighting for morale . The spectators spent more time clapping for penalties and sarcastically thanking the refs than cheering on the players. Since when has that been legit? I can’t speak for the players, but they seemed pretty content with the level of play. Things on the pitch were physical, not dirty, and so they just tucked their heads and tried to ignore the peanut gallery.

But enough sideline ranting from me. After a slow start to the half — both teams were evenly matched through the first 15 minutes — Summit started to control possession in the midfield, slowly pressing Delta’s defense further and further into the goal box. Both teams were plagued by offside calls, but the Tigers’ front line wised up to the Panthers’ backline game and let fast Gerson Martinez take runs from midfield.

One of these days — well, sometime this week — Martinez will finally find the net on a breakaway. I just have a gut feeling. For most of the season, he’s been right in the thick of every two-on-two breakaway or heart-pounding pinball match in the goal box, but, call it restlessness or plain bad luck, he’s always just a few inches out of position. Expect him to put on a show next season when he finds a rhythm.

Until then, though, the late-season stretch is time for the seniors to pad their careers. In the final five minutes of the first half, seniors Omar Espinoza and Wil Laidlaw led attack after attack on the Delta net. At five second remaining, the Tigers linked a string of confident passes on the far side to get the ball to Laidlaw, who had a beauty of a left footer over the Panthers goalie. It was the senior’s first goal of the season, and hopefully not the last, he says.

“It was definitely nice to get that,” Laidlaw said. “It’s a relief to have one under my belt senior year.”

The remainder of the game was all Summit, with Martinez coming oh-so-close on two more runs into the box and Laidlaw touching the ball more than just about everyone on both sides of the field. Funny how the first goal of the season can do that.

“I just want to finish strong, finish with the wins we want to have,” Laidlaw said when asked about the rest of the season. “We have to stay composed and play like we know we can, not get too crazy.”

By now, the Tigers are simply playing for pride through the end of the season. Their postseason hopes were symbolically quashed on Sept. 22, when they faced Battle Mountain after a 1-4 start and lost to the Huskies 6-0. Laidlaw, Espinoza and captain Ty Michalowski led a strong group of seniors that, unfortunately, had rarely played together before this season. Chemistry was a constant struggle, and it showed when the Tigers faced tight-knit teams.

It didn’t help that the 4A Western Slope was just that much tougher this season, with two teams vying for postseason play in the final week. On Oct. 15, an always threatening Battle Mountain (12-2) team managed to surpass Steamboat (11-2) in the 4A Slope standings with a 1-0 win over Eagle Valley (11-3). The Huskies are now ranked No. 17 and will earn a playoff berth with another win over Steamboat on Oct. 22.

The Tigers have two games remaining in their season, beginning Oct. 20 with the final home game against Glenwood Springs (8-6). The season finale comes on Oct. 22 at Eagle Valley, who handed summit a 4-0 loss in their first meeting. Both are games Gogolen knows the team can win — and both are games they need to win.

“Let’s win the last two,” Gogolen said. “Both of our last opponents are tough, but I know the boys will be up for the game. If we play the way we did today we’ll come away with wins.”

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