Summit varsity soccer beats Palisade 3-0 at home Sept. 19 |

Summit varsity soccer beats Palisade 3-0 at home Sept. 19

Summit vs. Palisade

Score 1st 2nd Final

Summit 2 1 3

Palisade 0 0 0

After a long and discouraging dry spell, the Tigers boy’s soccer team came away with a 3-0 win against the Palisade Bulldogs at home on Sept. 19.

The Summit team finally found its footing on a cool, crisp, bluebird fall morning, with explosive speed on breakaways and a stonewall defense protecting the net. Palisade was more or less out-paced, out-passed and out-shot: In the second half alone, the Tigers had 15 shots on goal, including a gorgeous goal from Omar Espinoza, while the Bulldogs had just four shots.

“We were the better team from start, and that hasn’t been the case yet,” said Tigers head coach Tommy Gogolen. Until Saturday, the varsity team was winless in four games, including three no-goal losses to non-league teams. The team finally found the net in the first Western Slope game at Steamboat Springs on Sept. 15, but still came up short, 2-1.

It’s been a rough start to 2015, no doubt about it. But most of the starters have tasted the posts-season — the Tigers made the semifinal round in 2014 and lost to 4A runners-up The Classical Academy — and, understandably, they want more.

They have all the pieces. First, let’s start with speed. Up front, seniors Wil Laidlaw and Salvador Zambrano are bullets. Then there’s senior Vicente Ramos and junior Gerson Martinez, the one-two punch behind the first goal of the first half. Sophomore midfielder Conor Craig had the second, while junior mid Cole Catron had several shots on straight-line breakaways.

“We have speed up top, but we definitely need to figure out how to utilize it,” Gogolen said.

Now, onto passing. Both teams looked sloppy and confident in turns, but the Tigers managed to make passes count. Every goal was paired with a textbook assist. When Summit scored, it wasn’t a freak bounce gone well — it came from clean touches and patience, plus plenty of on-field chatter.

Even near misses were pretty, like the second-half drive put together by Espinoza and fellow seniors Caden McCann and Parker Shell. The three linked pass after pass in a line, making two Palisade defenders trip over their feet to set McCann up for a clean shot — until he was called offsides.

Those offsides penalties deep in Palisade territory haunted the Summit forwards. Sure, they logged six shots in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but they logged four offsides penalties, including one to reverse McCann’s goal after the three-on-two schooling.

Was the Palisade defense trying to draw Summit offsides? Not sure — they were noticeably gassed through most of the second half. (Body checks and slides from behind are a sure sign of tired, pissed-off defenders. The final 40 had both.)

And that’s how the Tigers logged nearly four times as many shots as the Bulldogs — the front line was just that fast and just that accurate when it mattered. Actually, Zambrano and Catron had clean shots at one point or another, but Palisade’s rubber-armed goalie, Cooper B, made up for a dragging defense.

That, and as Gogolen says, his team needs to utilize speed, not just have it. Summit’s starting forwards took several rushed shots from outside the box, even when one-on-one with a defender. But, then again, any pressure is good pressure, and the Tigers dominated ball possession.

“The boys moved the ball quicker today,” Gogolen said. “We’ve been lacking in offense until now, but it came together.”

Shuffling the pieces

It took a bit of chesswork for Gogolen to find the right offensive mix. Before the season, he admitted there were gaps on the field and he’d be experimenting with forwards, mids and young JV players; the freshmen and sophomores who only joined the team this year.

But coach is pretty certain he’s found that mix. Another three or four solid wins will prove him right, but until then, the Tigers need to work on the fundamentals. They could be better on the first touch, Gogolen said, then win more 50/50 balls on all sides of the field. That means pinpoint control and smart aggression — two traits of a playoff team.

So, it feels good to have a win under their belts. But the Tigers face a rough follow-up game on Sept. 22 against Battle Mountain, easily one of the best teams in the league. They beat Palisade 8-0 on Sept. 17, and Summit takes them on away from home.

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