Thu Apr 11th, 2019
Special to the Drum
The wait for what could be a winning goal was almost as torturous as the wait for a win.
And nobody felt it more than Ignacio sophomore Abbi Barthel, trying to convert a rebound at close range during the closing minutes of a long-awaited 3A/2A Southwestern League road test Saturday, April 6, at Center.
“I was about to cry,” she recalled. “If it didn’t make it I was going to cry.”
“I don’t know who crashed in with me, but someone came in…and shot the ball first,” she continued. “The goalie had it in her hands, then dropped it, then she caught it again—and dropped it again! It was right behind her leg and I barely kicked it. It was just slow-motion….”
With just enough oomph on it, however, the second-chance try trickled over the goal line and set off a celebration so incredibly ecstatic that head coach Alisha Gullion had to quickly remind the Lady Bobcats there was still time remaining on the scoreboard clock.
“In that second half it was just back and forth the whole time: On their end, on our end, on their end, on our end,” she said via phone from the team bus. “I was just shouting, ‘Now hold them off! Three minutes! Hold them off!’”
“Our whole mindset was this is our chance to make history and end the drought,” said Barthel. “The whole team—freshmen, our one senior, juniors and sophomores—had it like, ‘We can make history together.’”
Defending their home pitch adjacent to Center Community Park, the Lady Vikings were ultimately unable to put together one final scoring possession against IHS goalie Rylee Pearson, and when full time was finally whistled, Ignacio exploded with elation over a 2-1 victory ending an 86-match losing streak.
“We were pretty closely matched the whole time,” said Gullion, given a truly unique birthday present by her squad. “It feels amazing. It really does, and I’m just so incredibly proud of the girls.”
“They were gone in the blink of an eye. They left pretty quickly,” Barthel said, noting the importance of the outcome—Ignacio’s first win since drubbing Center 4-1 at home on April 10, 2012—likely didn’t escape CHS’ players. “It was Miss G’s birthday and, you know, we took pictures. And by the time we all got together…there was, like, one Center girl left.”
Having played their first match since before Spring Break the previous afternoon on neutral ground, Ignacio (1-3 overall, 1-3 3A/2A SWL, 1-2 2A SWL) came out slowly against Center after making the long drive from their Gunnison lodgings into the San Luis Valley. And as in a 10-0 loss to Crested Butte Community School, the enemy struck first—via a penalty kick by Stephanie Molinar within the opening 25 minutes.
“I think there was a handball in the box, so in the first half they scored,” said Gullion. “About ten minutes later we scored and then went into halftime.”
Netting the equalizer was center midfielder Alannah Gomez, off a set-up pass from Barthel.
“I was like, I can’t get there,” she said, recalling the rush on net. “Passed it to Alannah, and Alannah booted it at the 18-yard line. The goalie didn’t move much and it…just went right past her! It was a beautiful shot.”
“We definitely were tired the first, probably, twenty minutes. And then we woke up, started playing,” she added. “We were…starting to be like ‘Here we go again; we’re going to get beaten again.’ And then Alannah got it and brought us back.”
“She was doing very nice holding down the center, doing some nice passes,” Gullion said of Gomez. “And then she just creeped in…the ball came out…and she put a foot right on it back into the goal. It was really nice.”
But not nearly as nice as finally tasting triumph.
“At the beginning of the game I said, ‘We have to do it for ourselves. Nobody else,’” said Barthel, who was only nine years old when IHS had last prevailed. “We got a win, and now it’s stuck in our minds that we are capable of winning a game; we are not terrible players, we are not unable to win. We can win, and we will win another game.”
Gullion concurred, though knowing her players know the task won’t get any easier.
“Every time we walked on the field, it was like ‘Oh I’ve got to break the streak!’ There was all this pressure on the girls, and I think it’s going to take away that stress winning this game,” she said. “And then moving forward, just to concentrate on playing smarter and…like, playing our game.”
Up next for the Lady ’Cats will be a visit from 2A Del Norte on Friday, April 12, with kickoff set for 4 p.m. Ignacio travels to 3A Montezuma-Cortez the next day for an 11 a.m. start, and will then host the same Lady Panthers Tuesday, April 15, with the Tax Day kickoff set for 4 p.m.
Center’s respective win-loss marks dropped to 0-6, 0-6, 0-5 prior to a 4/12 visit from 3A Pagosa Springs.
TOUGH IN NET
Regarding the aforementioned CHS PK, Pearson actually denied the initial shot. But amidst the chaos surrounding the rebound, IHS’ clearance attempt touched an IHS hand—giving the Lady Vikes another bite at the apple.
“Rylee…did really, really amazing this game,” said Gullion, “but yesterday is really when she shined. She had some incredible saves, to the point where the Crested Butte team was like, ‘Your goalie’s really good!’ And I was like, ‘Yep!’”