Winning the 3A Southwest Conference and advancing to the state tournament marked high on the Demons’ list, but in order to get there, coach Chuck Siefken knew his talent-laden team had to do extremely well on the defensive end of the field.
“That’s something we’ve been focusing on all year,” said the third-year coach after his team cemented its automatic bid to the state tournament by winning the conference title with an 8-0-2 record with a 10-0 victory over Ignacio on Tuesday afternoon in Solar Ranch. “(Qualifying to state) is a big deal for us.”
The Demons (9-0-2 overall), who last qualified to state in 2002, losing in the first round 8-0 to Basalt, now have a little time off before opening the 15th annual state tournament next week. Siefken and his 15 players won’t know their opponent until Sunday when the seeding meeting will be held at the Colorado High School Activities Association office in Aurora.
“We’ll be playing a team at a different level and in practice we’ll look at new things to make us even more competitive,” said Siefken, whose team finished in a three-way tie for second in the conference last season behind state-bound Telluride. “We’ll get to play here (Solar Ranch), but we don’t know against who yet.”
As for that defense, well, it’s allowed just four goals all season with seven shutouts.
“That shows we’re winning games,” senior midfielder Michal Fagrelius said. “That’s the most important component of our game. Defense wins games. We always seemed to get that first goal and let the defense hold on and win the game for us.”
Fagrelius is one of Siefken’s five talented final-year players.
“This feels awesome for us,” Fagrelius added. “All of us have been playing together since elementary school and it feels good to be super accomplished with this.”
The remaining seniors include Stine Austed (midfielder), Louisa Clark (defender), Cory Hibbard (defender), and Sam Willits (midfielder).
“I know this will be a tough group to lose because they’ve contributed so much,” added Siefken, who has a 21-9-6 overall record with the Demons since taking over the program in 2007.
The rest of the Demons’ roster includes juniors Willa Johnson (forward) and Rissa Robinson (midfielder); sophomores Christine Anderson (defender), Morgan Jossi (defender) and Julie Sirotek (defender); and freshmen Halli Benasutti (midfielder), Lauren Gleason (forward), Audrey Jossi (midfielder), Rowen VanArsdell (goalkeeper), and Nicole Zaugg (defender).
Ridgway’s offense isn’t too shabby either, having scored 49 goals in 11 games. That’s up from a mere 15 tallies a year ago during a 12-game regular season in which the Demons finished 5-4-3.
“It’s nice to see things we’re working on in practice show up in the games,” said Siefken, whose team last suffered a loss in the 11th game of last season when the Demons were blanked 5-0 by Telluride on April 26, 2008. “We deserve this opportunity.”
Ridgway was nearly unstoppable in conference action, having defeated Bayfield (1-0), Center (10-0, 12-0), Ignacio (6-0, 10-0), Pagosa Springs (2-0), and 2008 conference champion and state-tournament qualifier Telluride twice (3-1, 2-1). Ridgway’s ties came against Bayfield and Pagosa Springs, both of which ended with a 1-1 score.
The tie against Bayfield came on Sunday in Solar Ranch as the Demons had to rally from a 1-0 deficit with a second-half goal on an indirect kick situation. They then held on through the overtimes to preserve the tie.
“Ridgway looks pretty good. They have a good team,” Bayfield head coach Jen Zelinski told The Durango Herald.
To obtain updates from Sunday’s state-tournament seeding meeting and a complete bracket for the 16-team tournament, go to chsaa.org/sports/soccer/soccer.asp.