Sailors’ bid for conference title falls short
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs Sailors dominated most of the soccer match against the first-place Rifle Bears but could only come up with a 1-1 tie after two sudden-death quarters Thursday.
The tie, in the Sailors’ last conference game of the season, meant the team will stay in second place. Now, the Sailors’ only chance to regain their Western Slope Conference crown is if Rifle loses to Glenwood Springs in its last conference game.
On a wet and muddy field, Rifle came out aggressive and physical, pushing the ball on offense numerous times.
Steamboat was reeling early on, but later turned the tables. The Sailors picked apart the Bears’ midfielders with short, accurate passes to dig them out of a hole, followed by long sideline passes to give the home team scoring opportunities at the 15-minute mark of the first half.
However, Rifle had one last spurt of offense. Kira Harrison beat Steamboat defenders to the corner and kicked a left-to-right pass to a wide-open Maria Savage on the opposite side of the goal. Savage tapped an easy shot past Sailor goalkeeper Shannon Hurley with 12:48 left in the first half.
The Sailors retaliated with a shot on goal from Andryn Arithson off a direct kick by Crissy Lawton and another shot by Anya Allen, both of which were blocked.
The Sailors went into the half having seven shots on goal to Rifle’s three, which set the tone for the second half.
Rifle didn’t maintain offensive possession for longer than a couple of passes the whole second half.
The Sailors had 10 shots on goal, one of which was set up spectacularly by Jessica Fritz. After beating two defenders and what appeared to be a hold and a trip, Fritz fired a looping left-to-right shot from the corner that Rifle goalie Mary Ruffet managed to punch over the net with 14:35 left in the match
After that, Ruffet was everywhere to stop Sailor shots and almost singlehandedly saved the tie for her team.
“She had two saves that were all-state saves,” Sailors coach Jim Dudley said.
However, Ruffet couldn’t beat a perfectly placed corner kick, left to right, from Fritz that was headed into the goal by Julie Wernig.
But that’s all that got by Ruffet.
“She’s the best goalie in the league by far,” Rifle coach Tom Taucher said.
That proved to be frustrating for the Sailors.
“We expected to get first place and we beat them every place but the scoreboard,” Dudley said.
A win could have secured a first-place conference finish for the Sailors for the second year in a row. Instead, Steamboat ends conference play with a 4-1-1 record and an overall mark of 8-4-1.
Rifle, at 2-0-2 in the conference, still has to play Glenwood Springs on Tuesday to secure their first-place finish. If the team doesn’t win or tie, Steamboat could still finish in first place.
Either way, the tie was not the ending the Sailors had hoped for.
“We out-played them so much — this game and the game before,” Sailor Nikki Garth said. “It’s really disappointing.”
— To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo
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