Routt County athlete of the year: Top 10 highlights from 2014-15 prep sports teams

1. Soroco girls 69, West Grand 45

Winning the Western Slope-Gore league was a priority for the Soroco girls basketball team, but it appeared that chance was slipping away midway through the season after a road loss to West Grand.

Things got worse when DaKota Bruner, one of the team’s best scorers, was lost for the season early in the the Rams’ rematch with West Grand.

Soroco somehow shook that off, however, and didn’t just survive, but thrived. Soroco dominated the rest of the game. Briana Peterson scored 26 points. Jessica Rossi had 17, Leah Walorski scored 12 and Hayley Johnson 10.

The win set the Rams up to win the league. Plenty of victories remained on the schedule, but this was Soroco’s high tide.

2. Steamboat volleyball 3, Battle Mountain 1

The season’s first volleyball match between Steamboat and Battle Mountain was tight, but the Huskies came away winners in four tight sets, and when they traveled to Steamboat to complete the season series, they did so riding a 22-match league winning streak that dated back to 2012.

In four thrilling sets, Steamboat changed all that, avenging a key loss from earlier in the year, snapping Battle Mountain’s monstrous streak and keeping the Sailors in the middle of the league title race.

Steamboat set the tone in the first two sets, winning 25-21 and 25-14 before the Huskies answered big in the third, winning 17-25. Steamboat finally closed out, 25-20, giving Steamboat one of the biggest wins the school would enjoy during the 2014-15 school year.

3. Steamboat girls soccer 2, Battle Mountain 3 (OT)

The Steamboat girls played three times against Battle Mountain this spring. The first game was a classic, an overtime win by the Huskies. The second wasn’t as competitive as Battle Mountain got up big in the first half.

The third, however, was another great game, one of the best of the season.

Steamboat beat Montrose in the first round of the state playoffs — its first playoff win in a decade. That set up a third showdown with the Huskies, one with everything on the line.

Steamboat fell behind early, 2-0, similar to it’s early performance in the second matchup. This time the Sailors roared back, however. Mackenzie Gansmann scored two goals in the second half, while Ocoee Wilson kept things where they were with a great performance in goal.

Battle Mountain got the final goal, ending Steamboat’s season in overtime. It was painful, but wow, what a game!

4. Hayden girls volleyball 3, Soroco 0

There were plenty of moments during the season that didn’t live up to expectations for the Hayden High School girls volleyball team, including two lopsided losses against rival Soroco.

As it turned out, that made their final win of the season all the sweeter. The Tigers couldn’t piece things together in time to put together a lengthy playoff run, but they did do it for one big game, stunning Soroco in a three-set sweep in Oak Creek during the district tournament, 25-21, 25-20, 25-17.

Maybe it didn’t save a 6-14 season, but it was a heck of a way to go out, and a nice finale for senior superstar Jordan Temple.

5. Steamboat football 47, Grand Junction Central 26

The Sailors held a slim five-point lead over the Grand Junction Central Warriors heading into the fourth quarter of the homecoming night game Sept. 26; then Mitch McCannon happened.

The do-it-all senior scored two touchdowns in the final 12 minutes in two different ways. The first came on a 67-yard run and the second on a 45-yard interception return that sealed the deal. McCannon ran the ball just four times for 81 yards, while Sailors quarterback Zach Holm threw for 178 yards and two more touchdowns.

With the homecoming atmosphere and the huge production from Steamboat’s stars, the game proved to be the premier win for the Sailors in 2014.

6. Steamboat boys basketball 38, Glenwood Springs 45

The atmosphere lived up to the billing, and the game didn’t disappoint, either.

Round 1 of the Glenwood-Steamboat boys hoops match-up was a treat for the raucous Kelly Meek Gymnasium crowd, though the hometown Sailors succumbed to a 45-38 loss in the end.

It was clear the two teams were going to compete for the 4A Western Slope League title, and the Sailors and Demons traded shots through most of the four quarters of play. Glenwood used some timely free throws — and some untimely Steamboat free-throw misses — to seal the deal.

Afterward, Glenwood coach Cory Hitchcock compared the game to the eventual Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao title fight, though the crowded gym would probably agree the basketball version on that Jan. 17 day was much more entertaining.

Robi Powers, the conference player of the year runner-up, led the Sailors with 10 points. Glenwood’s Cameron Horning, the actual conference player of the year, led all scorers with 15 points.

7. Taylor Lewis at Class 2A state wrestling championships

Taylor Lewis’ howls of pain and agony could have — and should have — written him off in his third-round match at 182 pounds in the state tournament. Nursing a severely sprained ankle, Lewis gutted out a victory over Ignacio’s Blaine Mickey to stay alive on the big stage.

Lewis and Mickey traded points early, and with the Ignacio senior up by a point in the final period, Lewis scored an escape point to force sudden-victory overtime. In the overtime frame, Lewis used a reversal to stun Mickey.

Afterward, Lewis needed crutches to get out of the arena, and Tigers coach Chad Jones called it the gutsiest performance he’s ever seen out of one of his athletes.

8. Tatum Burger at 4A state tennis finals

Few people had challenged Tatum Burger this spring like St. Mary’s Academy’s Alex Weil did in the Class 4A No. 1 singles state tennis championship in May. Weil scored a first-set win, 4-6, immediately putting Burger’s back against the wall.

The freshman answered, owning the next set, 6-1, and cruising to Steamboat’s first state title in six years with a 6-2 clincher. Through the first two rounds of the state No. 1 singles bracket, Burger had given up just three points total.

The win capped an undefeated season for Burger, who now looks like a favorite to keep her success rolling in years to come.

9. Steamboat boys lacrosse 15, Windsor 16

An up-and-down Steamboat boys lacrosse season had a lot of both in the Sailors’ 4A state playoffs contest at Windsor.

Steamboat trailed by five goals late in the fourth quarter against the Wizards, all before the Sailors mounted a serious comeback that put them in position to actually win it in the final seconds.

After a Steamboat goal made it 16-15, the Sailors got the Wizards to commit an illegal pick. The penalty gave Steamboat the ball with 14 seconds left, but a turnover doomed the Sailors in their first opening-round playoff loss since 2012.

10. Steamboat boys soccer 2, Summit 2

Who knew a tie could be so thrilling and meaningful?

Playing in just its fourth game of the season, the Steamboat boys soccer team squared off with what would become one of the state’s top 4A squads in Summit at Gardner Field.

The Tigers dominated the first half, but clung to just a 1-0 lead. After Summit regained the lead at 2-1, Steamboat senior Hector Lopez rallied to force a late tie and overtime. Although both teams came close in the overtime minutes, neither could find the back of the net en route to a 2-2 draw.

Why the importance?

Summit went on to cruise through the rest of the league with the draw against Steamboat its lone blemish. The Tigers drew the No. 10 seed in the state playoffs and advanced all the way to the final eight.

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