Early in Saturday’s game against the Telluride Miners, a penalty kick by Pirate senior Ryan Searle helped illustrate how the Pagosa Springs team has progressed and grown this season.
“Ryan remembered that the Telluride keeper gave more space to his left, to make you kick there, as Riley (Searle, sophomore) did in Telluride” said Pirate’s coach Lindsey Kurt-Mason.
“The keeper stopped Riley’s kick by a great dive,” Kurt-Mason continued, recalling the Sept. 12 game. “Ryan remembered that and struck left of the keeper, nailing the back of the net. Great tactical awareness.”
Ending their season with three conference games, the Pirates improved to 5-4 in the Mountain league and 8-7 overall for the season.
The Pirates took to the road last Thursday for the first of three league games this past week, meeting the Vikings in Center. Hosted for the Center Homecoming, the Pirates decimated the Vikings 9-1 in their highest scoring game of the season.
“We came out attacking and did not let up until the final whistle,” said Kurt-Mason. “Everyone contributed.”
Taking the initiative early in the first period, Jacob Ormonde scored a goal just 3 minutes, 40 seconds into the game. Dustin Anderson followed up at 9:50, with Lars Schneider scoring at the 32:20 mark. Taking the first goal of his first hat trick of the year, Riley Searle capitalized on an indirect assist from his brother, Ryan, at 36:30, while Quinn Smith finished out the period with a goal at 39:50, giving the Pirates a 5-0 advantage at the end of the period.
Riley Searle opened the second half with a score on a penalty kick at 45:40 into the game. The Vikings finally got into the game with a goal at the 48-minute mark but it was their only real appearance in what resulted in an utter rout.
Riley Searle completed his hat-trick at 49:10 into the game, followed by a Schneider goal (off an assist by Riley Searle) 57:10 into the game and the Pirates sealed the deal when Anderson scored his second goal of the game off a Schneider assist 64-minutes in, landing the Pirates the astonishing 9-1 victory.
“Riley rediscovered himself in terms of being a striker,” said Kurt-Mason. “He was deceptive, creative, unstoppable and general pain in Center’s collective side.”
Hoping to exact revenge after a 2-1 loss in Telluride, the Pirates exhibited the progression and growth that, while not enough to send the team into post-season play, shows tremendous promise for next season.
The Miners lost a key player to a red card early in the first half, leading to Ryan Searle’s aforementioned penalty kick, leading off the Pirate scoring for the half at 11:00 into the game. Capitalizing on another Telluride penalty, Diego Gutierrez landed the ball securely in the Miners’ goal, giving the Pirates a 2-0 advantage at the end of the half.
Never really in the game, the Miners were hampered by a superior Pirate defense that apparently shook Telluride’s tepid offense. In fact, whenever the Miner’s managed to get a break and move towards the Pagosa goal, the efforts were almost invariably thwarted by an offside call.
Referring to the Miners, Kurt-Mason said, “They’re a good team, but today we were a better team,” adding, “the players of the game were the underclassmen, they really stepped up.”
With 28:05, Schneider deflected a shot into the Miners’ goal after a corner kick by Ryan Searle. Schneider produced again with 9:28 left, taking an Ormonde pass and using the break, put a cannonball into the Telluride net, capping Pagosa’s 4-0 victory over the Miners.
“What I saw out there was a great team effort, a supportive effort,” Kurt-Mason said. “It was a mental game, and they’ll (the Pirates) take this into the next year, knowing that Telluride is going into the playoffs.”
Hosting the Bayfield Wolverines at a drenched Golden Peaks Stadium Tuesday, the Pirates again illustrated the extent of their growth as a team over the past season.
Despite bitter cold, pouring rain and no shot at post-season play, the Pirates took to the field with tons of heart and endless determination. Just three minutes into the game, Riley Searle struck on an assist from Schneider. Gutierrez struck next, capitalizing on an assist from Sawyer Smith at 23 minutes in with a header into the net. Finishing out the half with another header, Ormonde put the Pirates up 3-0 at the end of the first period.
Holding the Wolverines behind mid-field for most of the game, the Pirates were able to follow through at the net, whereas Bayfield had trouble just getting close to the box. With just 10 minutes left in the game Ryan Searle put a rocket into the Wolverine’s goal from 40-yards out, capping the Pirate’s season with a 4-0 victory.
“Allen McIver (senior keeper) was the player of the game,” Kurt-Mason said. “He made six, point-blank stops and owned the box.”
Looking back at the last two-thirds of the season, it’s a shame the Mountain league is without a playoff system since the Pirates would have most likely made a strong showing at a tournament. The progression and growth the team experienced after a shaky start showed the Pirates to be contenders in 3A soccer.
“These guys are peaking in every aspect of the game,” said Kurt-Mason, “physical, mental, tactical and great technical play. The team chemistry is phenomenal.”
How that chemistry carries into next year will be a testament to the dedication of the team. Saying farewell to seniors Anderson, Britton Bennett, Jordan Davey, Ryan Searle, Sawyer Smith and keeper McIver, the Pirates will return next year with a formidable lineup, with talented juniors, sophomores and freshman stepping up to fill the holes in the varsity squad, taking the growth of this year’s team to another level of play.
“The future looks bright,” said Kurt-Mason, looking to next year.