MCHS soccer holds on to tie Rifle


CRAIG -- On paper, a tie doesn't declare a winner but the contrasting looks on the faces of the Rifle and Moffat County High School girls soccer teams showed which team was happier with the scoreless affair to end the regular season.

As the Rifle players wiped away tears, the broad smiles of the MCHS team weren't just because they were excited for the prom later on that night.

"I think we feel it is more of a victory than they do," said Moffat County senior Jeni Bamford. "It would have been nice to actually get the win, but we showed how much heart we had in the tie."

The Bears would have captured outright second place in the Western Slope Conference with a win. Instead, they have to rely on a little help from Steamboat Springs to beat Glenwood Springs Tuesday.

"I think the girls are most disappointed because they controlled their own destiny and didn't come through," said Rifle coach Tom Taucher. "We just didn't have the jump today and Moffat played really well."

It didn't help that in the second half there was a lid on the goal for Rifle. The Bears out-shot the Bulldogs 12-2 in the second 20 minutes, but timely plays by the MCHS defense and a couple of shots that were off by inches sealed the tie.

Three examples of Rifle's inability to convert came within two minutes of each other starting around the 73rd minute.

First a shot was partially blocked by Bulldog goalie Kelly Howle and rolled toward the goal line. Moffat County senior Jada Hastings cleared the ball inches before it crossed.

Seconds later, Rifle senior Ashley Gavito fired a shot that hit the underside of the post and bounced out, inches from the goal line.

Right before the 75th minute, a Rifle corner kick bounced around in the box and was eventually kicked over the goal, clearing it by six inches.

"A couple of those shots I just watched and went 'whoa'," said Moffat County coach Carla Bamford. "It was meant to be for us today."

For Taucher, he recognized his team had chances, but it wasn't enough.

"We had too many shots right at their keeper," he said. "We didn't create enough chances to make sure one of those shots went in."

Many of the Bears' chances were stopped short by Moffat County's offsides trap. Rifle was whistled for being behind the Bulldog defense 18 times during the game.

"Our defensive intensity and the offsides trap were the keys for us today," said coach Bamford. "The trap frustrated them especially in the second half."

Possibly the Bear's best chance came in the 77th minute when a handball was called on the Bulldogs a foot outside of the goalie box. Gavito took the free kick and it curved over the four MCHS players making a wall and headed toward the goal. Howle backed up anxiously and as the keeper jumped, the ball skimmed over the top of the goal.

"I just turned around and watched the ball sail to the goal," said MCHS senior Chloe Gilchrist, who was part of the wall. "I think my heart skipped a beat as the ball started to sink at Kelly."

The teams regrouped after a scoreless regulation, but other than three shots on goal, there wasn't as much drama in the two overtime periods as the final 10 minutes of the second half.

"Two open nets and the underside of the post is hard to watch," Taucher said. "It hurts because we had a goal set to get 10 wins and we fell short."

The tie puts Rifle at 8-2-2 in the conference, Glenwood Springs sits at 8-2-1. With a loss or tie for the Demons Tuesday, the Bears finish second in the conference and will move on with that seed in the state playoffs. With a Demon win, they will slip to the third seed from the conference for the playoffs.

Moffat County's season ends with a 3-8-1 record in the conference. The Bulldogs came into the season without a conference win in the nine years of the program's history. Three wins and a tie with the possible second-place finisher is considered a step in the right direction.

"I don't think we could have ever dreamed of a season like this our freshman year," said senior Cassie Owens.

"Considering the history of our program, the girls have a lot to be proud of, especially with a tie against Rifle," coach Bamford said. "We lose seven seniors but we have a good group of players coming back."

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