Fri Apr 24th, 2020
Special to the Drum
Tags: Abbi Barthel, Alisha Gullion, Amanda Henderson, Beau Brooks, Briana Duran, Brianna Henderson, Caitlyn Chapman, Colorado High School Activities Association, COVID-19 pandemic, Emerald Owens, Emily Cundiff, Governor Jared Polis, Ignacio Bobcats, IHS Girls Soccer, Jaylene Riepel, Lonicia O’John, Santana Edd
Soccer squad’s slate still hangs in limbo
When press time at the Drum rolled around Monday evening, April 20, Ignacio’s girls’ soccer schedule initially would have had third-year head coach Alisha Gullion stalking the sideline, observing the Lady Bobcats’ progress during a road match at Montezuma-Cortez.
That 3A/2A Southwestern League test was ultimately pushed back to 4 p.m., May 7 – a date which, should the faith of Assistant Principal/Athletics & Activities Director Leo Garand and a more cautiously-positive skipper be rewarded, could actually now serve as a restart point for IHS’ coronavirus-curtailed 2020 campaign.
The Colorado High School Activities Association’s calendar had originally called for all regular-season matches to be completed by May 9, with the State Tournament pairing/seeding committee then meeting on the 11th.
“Leo is very optimistic; he’s fighting very, very hard for, like, a two-week ‘season’ at the end of May. Like, a handful of games against close schools to compete,” Gullion said via phone Sunday night, April 19. “But I don’t know; I’m trying to stay optimistic, but the way we’re going with school and stuff, I’d be very surprised if we even return to the building at this point.”
Said structure was where she’d received the news of CHSAA’s late-night March 12 decision to suddenly scrub the basketball season’s penultimate two days and immediately stall springtime sports in hopes of mitigating possible exposure to and/or spread of global COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was really crazy,” recalled Gullion. “I’m a teacher at the high school, and I’d heard rumors that they were going to, or thinking about placing a moratorium on spring sports/activities. I talked to Don Hayes, the baseball coach, that day during lunch and he’d said, ‘Ah, they won’t cancel us; we’re outside! We’ll be fine.’”
“And then, like, during my third-hour class – which is right after lunch – I got the e-mail,” she continued. “Well, first Leo told me what was happening … like, ‘You’ll see the e-mail coming through in about 20 minutes, that we’re canceling at this time.’ I was teaching AP Lit, had Brianna and Amanda (the sisters Henderson), Santana (Edd) and Emerald (Owens) – like, a good portion of my team – in class, and I was just crestfallen. So were they; it was such a big hit.”
Particularly with the Lady ’Cats eager to kick off their schedule with a 3/14 opener at IHS Field versus M-CHS. A March 20 home clash with SWL force Ridgway had been slated next, followed by a 1 p.m. gut-check the next afternoon at formidable Crested Butte Community School.
Having lost only Briana Duran to graduation last May, Ignacio appeared primed to – at a bare minimum – repeat their improved 2019 performance (2-13 overall, 2-13 SWL, 2-8 2A SWL), which featured the program’s first victory since ’12. During actual CHSAA-sanctioned preseason practices prior to the statewide shutdown, Gullion noted energy in camp was high.
“We have this chant: ‘Center, and one more!’” she stated. “I’ve always told the girls, ‘You want to have achievable goals, right?’ Like last year: ‘Win our first game!’ Now it’s, ‘Let’s get a … win against a different team.’”
Expected to return attacking threats Caitlyn Chapman and Abbi Barthel, plus the midfield/forward-capable Hendersons and many, many others from front to back, about the only major change would have been seen in net with stalwart goalie Rylee Pearson having transferred during the offseason to local SWL rival Bayfield.
“Jaylene would have been our starter at goalie this year,” said Gullion, referring to senior Jaylene Riepel, who fortunately saw much action last season and thus wasn’t returning to the crew foreign to the role. “But we also had Emily Cundiff, I think she usually runs track, switch to soccer this year, and she was very interested in playing goalie. Had a lot of raw ability; [assistant coach] Beau Brooks was just starting to work with her.”
Also with past experience between the pipes, senior Lonicia O’John was also reportedly back in the fold as part of a motivated roster well-stocked with upperclassmen.
“We had a really solid team at the start of the season,” Gullion said. “Every season we’ve been building on momentum we had, and this year we were really planning on capitalizing on that. We had some new players come out, a bunch of returning players, and I was just very, very excited.”
Per Governor Jared Polis’ executive order, all Colorado school facilities must remain closed through at least April 30, thus denying Gullion, presently engaged in online-classroom instruction, vital physical interaction each day with her charges.
“For me I think the hardest thing is … on both fronts [teaching, coaching], I don’t get to ‘see’ my athletes or my students at this point,” she said. “It’s been really difficult, for sure.”