Two big games this past weekend — a huge 10-0 victory against the Center Vikings Friday afternoon and a 1-1 overtime tie against the Ridgway Demons Saturday morning — showed a vastly improved Pirate soccer team that has turned this season around and will likely be a division powerhouse over the next couple of years.
Hosting both games, the Pirates exhibited the kind of passing and ball control that had eluded them earlier in the season while they struggled to find their footing.
Unhampered by frigid temperatures and spring squalls that blew through Golden Peaks Stadium, the Pirates were never in trouble against the Vikings Friday afternoon. With a breakaway drive from mid-field, sophomore Nicole Hunt booted in the first goal at 5 minutes, 5 seconds into the game, then followed up a little over five minutes later with a second goal, driving the ball into the net past a crowd of Center defenders, sneaking the ball into the corner of the net. Just seconds later, sophomore Michelle Church drove in past three Viking defenders for the third Pirate goal, followed by sophomore Kassidy Smith who scored a fourth goal with 18:05 left in the period. Hunt completed her hat trick with 13:54 left, driving past the Center goalie and scoring a fifth Pagosa point. Smith scored her second goal of the game (working toward her own hat trick) at the 11:52 mark. Senior Ani Gallegos finished the half with her first career goal with 8:14 left, picking up a pass from mid-field and dribbling past numerous Center defenders for an impressive shot into the net, giving the Pirates a commanding 7-0 at the end of the half.
Despite Center playing a tighter defense in the second half that held the Pirates to the sides of the field, the Vikings were unable to hold back a Pagosa attack that was as brutal as the wind. Unable to break through an entrenched Pagosa defense, the Vikings were prevented from getting anywhere near the Pirate’s goal. With coach Lindsey Kurt-Mason putting Pirate JV players onto the field en masse with 21 minutes left in the game, the Vikings were nonetheless hapless in the face of superior Pagosa passing and dribbling, immobilized by the Pirate’s defense.
Taking her third goal of the game, Smith made good on an assist from her sister, Kayleen, putting the ball in from the corner with 18:30 left. Another corner kick from junior Natalie Erickson took an incredible hook shot into the net with 16:40 left, the ball taking an arc across the goal and finding its way home. Finally, with a goal from junior Julia Adams with 10:10 left, the game was called on the mercy rule. The wind figuratively at their backs, no matter what side of the field they played, the Pirates sank the Vikings 10-0 with a decisive victory.
“It was a real confidence booster for the next day,” said Kurt-Mason, “We got our JV players out there and we got to try ourselves on some set plays, especially on the corners.”
The Pirates needed that confidence the next day, facing a 5-1 Ridgway team on Saturday that, by Kurt-Mason’s assessment, was “A technically better team. But I think we came with a bit more heart.”
In fact, the Demons had defeated Bayfield — a team that beat Pagosa 1-0 back in early March —1-0 the previous day.
On a slick, snow-covered field, the action was held to mid-field, with both teams taking few shots on the goal. While offenses on both sides were mired down with slush, and a ball that had all the action of a mid-April snowball, tight defense on both sides kept the first half scoreless.
Ridgway finally broke the stalemate at 7:28 into the second period with a clean chip shot past the otherwise capable hands of sophomore Pirate goalie Alyssa Laydon. Laydon, who made nothing less than impressive saves throughout the game (three tallied each period), remained undaunted and prevented any further Demon scores. With 2:45 left in the game, several Pirates swarmed the Ridgway goal, giving sophomore Ericka Pitcher enough room to slip the ball in for a Pagosa goal.
Impressed with his team’s performance, Kurt-Mason said, “This is a pivotal point, a turning point in our season.”
With the period ending in a 1-1 tie, the game went into overtime for two five-minute halves. Again, both defenses held their own throughout both periods, sending Ridgway home with a 5-1-1 record while the Pirates ended the day with a 2-4-1 record for the season’s current record.
The Pirate’s record, however misrepresents the extent of the talent and potential of the team, especially as that skill and determination was exhibited in Saturday’s game against Ridgway. “Ericka and Michelle did especially well,” said Kurt-Mason, “Controlling the mid-field and picking up players they needed to stop.”
The coach also praised Laydon’s goalie skills, saying, “I haven’t seen a better goalie out there all season.”
Looking ahead, Kurt-Mason said, “I think we’re coming into our own, now. It’s going to be tougher, the rest of the season.”
The Pirates travel to Durango today for a match against the 5A Demon JV squad, then return the favor on for a match at Golden Peaks Stadium at 4 p.m. on Monday. The Pirates host again Tuesday at 4 p.m. for a match against the Ignacio Bobcats.