Fri Jun 4th, 2021
Special to the Drum
Tags: 2A Southwestern League, Alexis Pontine, Alisha Gullion, Anna Bartschi, Aynsleigh Wood, Bobcats Soccer, CHSAA, Class 2A, Courtney Southall, Crested Butte, Darlyn Lechuga-Mendoza, Del Norte Game, Doubleheader, Eleni Wallin, Emily Cundiff, lady bobcats, Lady Titans, Lily Berwanger, Maizy Gordon, Ridgeway, SWL Bones, Telluride, Trevor Peterson
Skeleton side still making its SWL bones
Forced to postpone a May 17 match with then-third-ranked Telluride due to having only nine serviceable players at her disposal, then left with no choice but to visit No. 5 Crested Butte on the 25th with just ten (the Lady Titans gamely reciprocated and sent out onto the pitch as many), Ignacio head coach Alisha Gullion was really hoping to rumble Thurs., May 28, with Ridgway having at least the conventional minimum 11 individuals available.
That target was hit, with one active substitute even in uniform.
“Yeah, that felt great,” she said afterwards. “And I’d told them at the beginning of the season … . We have a very new team, starting over after last year, and … if we can field a team, learn, get some experience, and finish our season, I will be very happy. It looks like we’re on that trajectory.”
Bumped from the week-starting CHSAANow.com Class 2A poll’s Top 12, RHS – previously ranked No. 9, but upon arrival at IHS Field the second-highest ‘Others Receiving Votes’ team, despite an 11-1 rout Saturday, May 22, of then-No. 10 Del Norte – dressed seven sophomores and three juniors, including goalkeeper Aynsleigh Wood, for the occasion (their two seniors were committed elsewhere).
And with Gullion and counterpart Trevor Peterson agreeing to a 10-v-10 tilt, the Lady Demons converted youth into energy. Taking advantage of the more-vacant pitch, the go-go guests registered six goals both before and after intermission in prevailing 12-2 in 2A Southwestern League girls’ soccer.
Sophomore Courtney Southall got the scoring started just five minutes in, cornering the ball out to fellow soph Maizy Gordon, who then returned the ball to Southall on an overlap run behind Gordon and deeper into IHS’ 18-yard box. Barely three minutes later, however, the Lady Bobcats equalized with freshman Darlyn Lechuga-Mendoza beating Wood to the goalie’s left.
“It started with Center; she could just pop it through their defensive line every time. Nice ball-handling, nice control, and she’s fast,” Gullion said. “Center game she had a couple shots on goal, and Crested Butte she was able to get it up there again.”
“We just kept talking in practice every day,” Lechuga-Mendoza said, of the Lady Bobcats’ collective desire to put a ball across an opponent’s goal line. “And I was pretty excited – I was worried I wasn’t going to make it! – but was confident.”
But later in the same eighth minute of play, Ridgway retook the lead, 2-1, when the playmaking Gordon successfully shot low and to keeper Emily Cundiff’s left. Gordon then accelerated the pace with another goal in the 10th minute and completed a hat trick in the 22nd by battling through defender Alexis Pontine’s physical challenge for another low-left strike.
Gordon would lift a 20-yard free kick in the 27th minute over Cundiff and just beneath the crossbar for RHS’ fifth goal, and junior Anna Bartschi then took a Southall pass all the way up the near sideline, past the IHS bench, to score in the 29th – giving the outsiders a 6-1 halftime advantage.
“Her first year in goal would have been last year. And remember, she got concussed at the very beginning and we thought she was going to be out … . And then we were ALL ‘out,’” said Gullion, referencing the COVID-canceled 2020 season. “But this season, she’s definitely learned a lot, but there’s a lot she’s still working on. We just started figuring out the ‘coming out’ of goal, taking them down when they’re in the box … and she had some really good saves that way.”
Credited with 14 in a 10-0 loss at CBCS, Cundiff would log 13 against the Lady Demons (Wood unofficially booked six) before Gordon ended the day in the 63rd minute splitting two defenders for a quick 1-v-1 versus the recently graduated senior, giving her five goals. Southall, Bartschi and sophomore Eleni Wallin each totaled two, and sophomore Lily Berwanger one.
Lechuga-Mendoza, meanwhile, would score again in the 53rd minute, trimming the deficit at the time to 9-2.
“At first she was kind of uncomfortable deciding between center-mid and wing,” Gullion recalled, “but she’s got such speed that the wing is a great spot for her. Seeing her doing what she’s been doing … but succeeding and getting those goals was very exciting to see.”
With some SWL squads electing to shut down their respective seasons due to illness, numbers, or something as simple as summer-itis, Ignacio’s upcoming schedule has shrunk. The Lady ’Cats (0-5, 0-5 SWL) have now had both their matches against Telluride, each already rescheduled at least once – including one to Tuesday, June 8 – combined into what will be a Memorial Day doubleheader. Action is slated to start at 11 a.m. Mon., May 31, and will play out in reduced-length halves.
The next day, IHS will welcome Del Norte for a 12 p.m. kickoff. Like Center, DNHS will then wrap up their season early, following a neutral-site clash with THS shortly after facing Ignacio. Ridgway (4-2, 4-2), meanwhile, will square off against Crested Butte in the first of two postseason-caliber meetings.
“We almost lost that Del Norte game, and I was very disappointed about that … because we (lost) 5-1 (to) Del Norte before and that was our first game,” said Gullion. “We’ve grown so much since then, that I did not want to lose … that second game. So Leo (athletic director Garand) got together with the other AD and we were able to figure it out.”
Still denied in the end a second go-round with CHS (originally set for Friday, June 4, out in the San Luis Valley), the Lady ’Cats will close out their unusual, truncated 2021 campaign at 11 a.m. Sat., June 5, at home versus CBCS.
“I’m okay with the condensed games and the scheduling as long as we were able to keep that game and finish our season,” Gullion said. “I’m just so happy that we’re one of the teams that gets to finish out.”