Sailors looking to corral the Mullen Mustangs in opening game of 2016 season
Steamboat Springs — It’s been almost a year, and Steamboat Springs goalkeeper Andrew McCawley said the bad taste from the Sailors boys soccer team’s 3-2 loss to D’Evelyn in the first round of the 2015 state playoffs still lingers.
“It was the first time we hosted a home playoff game in years,” the Sailors returner said. “That was a tough way to end the season, and it definitely left a bad taste. This year a lot of us are looking at this season as a chance to redeem ourselves.”
While getting back to the playoffs in the always competitive Western Slope Division will not be easy, that’s exactly what McCawley and his teammates are working toward. He believes the team can put the playoff loss behind them, but he wants to use the memories from that night in Steamboat as motivation on the field this fall.
“This is a new season. We have some new kids coming in, and other players moving up,” McCawley said. “But that game is going to be in the back of our minds as we move forward. My goal is to have another home playoff game and to get past the first round of the playoffs.”
It’s only been a couple of weeks since the Sailors officially returned to the field, but head soccer coach Rob Bohlmann said he has already noticed a sense of urgency among the returning players on this year’s team.
“Week one is all about practice, in week two we get to start playing some games,” Bohlmann said. “It was nice to play some scrimmages at home last week. It feels like, as a team, we are all on the same page, and we have a lot of confidence.”
In a rare treat, the boys team got to stay home last weekend for scrimmages against Colorado Academy and Salida high schools.
“It’s still the early stages, but it feels like we came away from that day in a good spot,” Bohlmann said.
The coach was impressed that the players on this year’s squad did a great job with summer conditioning and training. He said the turnout for the team’s optional pre-season practices was also strong.
“It’s clear to see that these players have really put in the work both individually and as a group,” Bohlmann said. “All of the players have a good base fitness level and have done a fantastic job with conditioning. I think we are at a really good point where we can start building.”
The team will open the season Saturday with an 11 a.m. non-league game against Mullen in Denver.
The Sailors know they will be facing a quality front-range opponent, but Bohlmann said that the two schools have a limited history when it comes to head-to-head meetings. Steamboat fell to Mullen 4-0 when the teams last met in the playoffs in 2003. Saturday’s game one of two key non-conference matches this season that could have playoff implications with the new ranking system that will determine if and where teams are seeded in the playoffs.
The good news for the Sailors is that the team will return a strong core that should provide solid leadership.
The team will feature a veteran defensive unit anchored by McCawley in goal and by junior centerbacks Will Beurskens and Alexander Coffey. Bohlmann said the group will allow Steamboat’s front line players to attack more freely and will help build the attack from the backline.
Steamboat will also return Ross VanHara, Cruz Archuleta, Ben Anderson, Ethan Walker, Lance Jankoski and Will McConnell. The offense should be fueled by Archuleta, who scored 17 times last season to lead the Sailors in scoring during his junior year, and fellow senior VanHara, who scored five times last year.
The team will need to fill in for the loss of Jack Salyer, who scored nine goals, and Charlie Beurskens, who netted seven. Both players graduated last spring.
After Saturday’s opener, Steamboat will return home for a Tuesday game against Moffat County. That game will be played at 4 p.m. at Gardner Field.
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