Lady Miners finally make home debut

Telluride's Fiana Ahern (12) leaps to head a ball away from the Lady Miners' goal Tuesday afternoon during non-league action at Judy Long Memorial Field versus Durango. The visiting Lady Demons were never far from the framework in prevailing 9-0, spoiling THS' first home match of the 2023 season. (Photo by Joel Priest/Telluride Daily Planet)

Though recent efforts made to plow off and uncover Judy Long Memorial Field had at last paid off, allowing Telluride girls’ soccer to finally host a regular-season match, head coach Ramon Rodriguez knew his squad — facing its first opponent since before Spring Break — probably wouldn’t perform up to par Tuesday afternoon.

“We just brought the goals out yesterday,” he’d said during pre-match warmups.

And caught up in the day’s wicked winds plus cool temperatures while facing well-conditioned Durango, a Class 4A crew three days removed from a 10-0 win at 4A Grand Junction in 4A/5A Southwestern League play, the Lady Miners were understandably overwhelmed by a 9-0 margin.

“It was good to see Durango, to show us that this is what we can play like,” said Rodriguez. “Did I expect more? Sure, but we’ll get there. We’ll be alright in a couple weeks.”

“We take what we can get, and today was a good performance,” DHS skipper Melissa Halonen said. “We like to play possession, and I feel like that’s what we did. We connected passes, created some chances in the final third — headers and all that kind of stuff — by working on runs into the box, and it came to fruition. The girls played well.”

Featuring Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball recruit Mason Rowland and Western Colorado University women’s soccer recruit Riley Campbell, the Lady Demons broke the proverbial ice just six minutes in, when Rowland threw in to Campbell, who then slipped a pass to junior Emery Miller for a back-side finish.

Looking for something similar in the 11th, Rowland again threw deep into Telluride’s 18, but goalkeeper Jayden Fortner was able to smack it away. However, Durango senior Sophie Ragsdale was positioned perfectly to volley the deflection back into the exposed net, giving Durango (6-2 overall, 4-1 4A/5A SWL) a 2-0 advantage.

Rowland then increased it to 3-0 by heading home sophomore Bella Saren’s 21st-minute corner kick, and Miller put away a penalty kick — resulting from Fortner sacrificing herself to stop a 1-v-1 rush — in the 33rd as DHS went into halftime up four goals.

Under siege from start to finish, Fortner was perhaps the reason the match actually lasted the full 80 regulation minutes. With their missed passes even having enough pace on the high-speed pitch to require stopping, DHS piled up a 26-1 shots-on-goal advantage before intermission, and out-shot THS 36-3 before the pause.

The Lady Miners’ best chance came when senior Taylor Carlson launched a 25-yard shot just high over DHS starting goalie Ryne Neiman in the 30th minute, and Telluride’s best opportunity overall came during the first two minutes of the second half. Unfortunately, Durango reserve keeper Riley Dastrup denied sophomore Lexton Gregory a breakaway goal with a kick-save.

“That was, like, the play of the game right there,” said Halonen. “It could have cost us a shutout, but (Dastrup) was there and focused. And that’s hard to do, to come in the second half and right away have to make a play like that. Riley did well.”

Rowland capitalized on the morale boost by finishing breakaways in the 44th and 46th minutes, heading in junior Sarah Somrak’s 53rd-minute corner, and then accidentally hooking a Campbell return pass low, around and through several players — including a surprised Fortner — in the 55th.

Junior Addie Gross netted the Lady Demons’ ninth goal in the 66th minute, but DHS, despite totaling six corners and 47 shots-on-goal, couldn’t mercy-rule the determined Lady Miners as Fortner finished with a jaw-dropping 36 total saves.

“You know, Durango’s a great team. You can’t take anything away from Durango. But also, I think we know we’re better than that,” Rodriguez said. “With all the circumstances — coming off a two-week break, vacation time, no practice and playing that tough of a team — we just didn’t have our soccer legs underneath us.”

Up next, the Lady Miners (3-4, 0-1 2A Intermountain-South) will resume league work at 4 p.m. today (Thursday) in Ridgway (2-3-1, 1-1-0), then travel to Durango for a Tuesday rematch scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m.

TRACK TRIP POSTPONED: While the soccer match proceeded even as the gusts got stronger, THS track & field’s scheduled trip to the Bayfield Invitational No. 2 was postponed due to similar conditions expected throughout La Plata County.

Initially rescheduled for Tuesday, BHS athletic director Andy Duffy announced a new date of Monday.