Soccer team off to shaky start

News to but a few Pagosa area residents, foaling season is well underway. And with the timorous stance of a new arrival to the pasture, the Pirate girls’ varsity soccer team started their season on shaky legs and with an awkward gait.

“It’s going to take a few games before we find our stride,” said Coach Lindsey Kurt-Mason.

In fact, with just three returning seniors fielded this year, the lady Pirates have considerable growth ahead of them. Only three junior players back up the seniors, while nine sophomores and nine freshmen fill out the Pirate roster this year.

Taking their first set of matches on the road, the Pirates returned home with a 0-3 record, gaining much needed experience but, unfortunately, no marks in the win column.

In Salida for their season opener last Friday, the Pirates were unable to gain enough ground to defeat the Spartans. After falling behind 2-0 in the first half, Pagosa found themselves, “Not so much beat physically but mentally,” said Kurt-Mason.

“In the first half, we were just trying to find our feet. We gained momentum, rallied and adjusted in the second half.”

Indeed, with just three shots in the first, the Pirates took 10 shots in the second. Three saves in the first and two in the second by sophomore goalie Alyssa Laydon indicates the Pirate gained control in the latter half.

Senior Nichole Kazarinoff narrowed the score to a one-point game with a goal late in the second but the Pirates were unable to capitalize on their late-game rally.

“We just ran out of time,” said Kurt-Mason.

After a breakfast and player mixer, hosted by Buena Vista parents, the Pirates took the field on a bitter cold Saturday afternoon to meet the Demons. With wind gusts blowing up to 30 m.p.h.., the Pirates might have had a warm reception for breakfast but found a much chillier greeting on the field.

Despite a leadoff goal by sophomore Nicole Hunt, the Pirates were unable to tame the Demons. With a Buena Vista goal scored off a Pagosa deflection, the half ended with a 1-1 tie.

“The girls just weren’t solving problems on the field the way they had against Salida,” said Kurt-Mason.

Although Laydon logged eight saves for the game, the Demons managed to take the game with two follow-up goals in the second, sending Pagosa home with a 1-3 loss.

Driving to meet the Bayfield Wolverines on Tuesday, the Pirates appeared to have learned a few things from their two previous games.

“We made some good improvements,” said Kurt-Mason, “and that’s what we need to do,”

A mid-field battle throughout, Pagosa held Bayfield scoreless by the end of the first half, with Laydon continuing to prove herself as a formidable goalie.

“Alyssa played really well; she had some point-blank stops. She’s turning into a tough keeper,” the coach said.

Kurt-Mason also noted the performance of Erika Pitcher, saying, “She probably had the game of her career, her effort was outstanding.”

With Pagosa taking just seven shots the entire game and Bayfield with 11 total shots, the game looked to end as a defensive struggle with naughts on both ends. However, 53 minutes into the second, the Wolverines finally scored on a quick shot, sending the Pirates home with a 0-1 loss.

Looking back on the Pirates’ slow start, Kurt-Mason acknowledged that the Pagosa area climate is a factor in getting the girls ready. “We do need some more time on the field,” he said. “Once we do that, we’ll work a lot of these things out.”

Currently, the Pirates are practicing in the junior high gym as the soccer field remains covered in snow, ice and water.

As the weather gets warmer and the field dries out, Kurt-Mason recognizes what the girls need to work on, saying, “We need to hit the ball with our laces, get more accurate and get more shots on the goal.”

However, the coach is confident that, given more field time and experience, the Pirates will shine in the weeks to come.

“The more these kids play, the better they get. With patience and perseverance, they’re going to be a great team.”

With Ignacio High School hunkered down for the state basketball championships in Fort Collins, the Pirates’ scheduled Friday match in Ignacio was rescheduled for April 21. After an extended break, the girls will host the Telluride Miners March 21 at Golden Peaks Stadium.

jim@pagosasun.com