The Steamboat Springs High School boys soccer team will face one of the top teams in the state Wednesday when it opens play in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament.
The Sailors were assigned the No. 25 seed in the tournament and will go on the road to play No. 8 Silver Creek.
Steamboat may be a considerably lower seed, but the Sailors see an opponent they can play with.
“I think we’re very evenly matched,” Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said.
What’s on paper justifies his belief.
Steamboat finished its regular season with an 11-4 record and placed second in the Western Slope League. It was ranked No. 24 in the season’s final RPI rankings, but bumped down a spot in the tournament to avoid a first-round matchup with No. 9 Battle Mountain, the Western Slope champ that beat Steamboat twice during the season.
Silver Creek, meanwhile, comes into the postseason 12-2-1, having finished atop the Northern League.
The teams have two common opponents from the season. Both lost to Mullen, the No. 5 seed in the 4A tourney. Steamboat fell 7-3, and Silver Creek lost 4-2. Both then beat Centaurus — the No. 23 ranked team — in tight games. Steamboat won 2-1 and Silver Creek 3-2 in overtime.
The Raptors, 7-9 a year ago, pieced together one of their best recent seasons this year, thanks, in part, to a strong senior class that account for three of the team’s top-four scorers. Junior Conner Peskin led the team with 12 goals, while seniors Stewart Lemmon, Aldo Rico and Miguel Toledo scored nine, eight and four, respectively.
Toledo’s greatest strength wasn’t in scoring, however. He racked up 15 assists through the season, making him one of Class 4A’s leaders in the category.
Steamboat, meanwhile, is led in scoring by senior Cruz Archuleta, who finished the season with 17 goals, and his classmate Ross VanHara, who had 10.
The Sailors opened their season with a loss to Mullen, then lost back-to-back league games midway through, but closed with a streak of five consecutive wins that boosted the team solidly into second place and into the tournament. Only a 4-0 loss Thursday in the season finale, a league-title deciding tilt at Battle Mountain, threatens to derail the team’s momentum as it heads into the postseason.
That element doesn’t have Bohlmann too worried.
“We came out Friday with a very light practice, just recovering, and Saturday, we had one of the best practices we’ve had all season. That says a bit about our guys. They’re very resilient, such a positive group,” he said. “They are absolutely excited to continue to keep playing. They’ve got the proper mindset. You combine that with, right now, fitness wise, health wise, we’re in really good shape, so that’s where you want to be in the postseason.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9