Soccer team gellin' at right time

Nobody checked inside shoes for insoles Wednesday, but a couple of Moffat County High School soccer players agreed that the team was "gellin'."

"We're playing well together as a team," goalie Malcolm Hillewaert said. "We're gellin'."

"The last couple of years we knew what it felt like to be close," senior Rowan DuBois said. "This year, we've played as a team instead of individuals and scored the goals when it mattered."

The Bulldog soccer team faces Steamboat Springs in Steamboat today with a chance to set a couple of school records. If the team wins, it will be the first time it has swept the Sailors. It also will be a new season high for wins.

"We talked about doing well this year but I didn't know if it would happen," DuBois said. "I've been waiting for this for four years, and things are finally coming along."

With Rifle losing to Glenwood Springs on Tuesday, the Bulldogs moved into third place in the Western Slope League. Moffat County's 4-3-1 league record is a half-game better than the Bears.

The Bulldogs have come a long way since their season opening 4-2 loss to Fruita Monument.

"We tried too hard against Fruita," coach Jeff Hammond said. "We didn't communicate well, and we thought too much."

Since the Fruita loss, the Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 27-14 and they are 5-3-1.

"It has been difficult to beat us this year, because we don't get down even if we trail," Hammond said. "We're never out of a game."

There are five games remaining in the regular season. Three of those games are against teams the Bulldogs beat the first time they played. The other two games are a match up Saturday against unknown opponent, Delta, and the other game is a rematch of a 2-1 loss to Battle Mountain.

"I think we match up well against Battle Mountain," Hammond said. "If we're healthy and focused, I think that game could be a boost for us in positioning for the playoffs."

Until three years ago, the term playoffs was foreign to Bulldog soccer.

The past two years, the team was in the playoff picture until the final week. This year, it looks as if they are the playoff picture.

"A big difference for us has been the work of assistant coach Isidro Quezada," Hammond said. "He has helped the Hispanic players adjust to our style of play."

The Hispanic factor has played a major role in this year's success. Pepe Loya Mendoza and Miguel Martinez lead the team in goals with six apiece.

"Everybody has learned to play with each other," Hammond said. "A majority of this team has played together since indoor in the winter so they're learning to move as a group."

The top four teams in the WSL will move on to the playoffs.

"I hope we win them all," Hammond said. "But I think if we win three, we wrap up a spot."

The breakout season comes at a time that Western Slope soccer is starting to get recognition.

The Rocky Mountain News ran a story this week titled, "Western Slope tops 4A soccer." The story was about the emergence of Montrose, No. 3., and Battle Mountain, No. 10, in the soccer polls.

"I think that there will be a state champion from the West in the next couple of years," Hammond said.

"The recognition for our kids will be good because when state teams are chosen, Front Range coaches never give the Western Slope recognition."

If things continue to gel for the Bulldogs, they might be a team receiving the recognition soon.

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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