Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Lefty's hangs around, but Boise is a soccer dynasty

Boise Blast three-peats at Ketchum Classic soccer tournament


Lefty's sweeper and co-captain Shaun Kelly clears the ball during the home team's 2-1 semi-final loss to Jackson Hole Sunday. Photo by Willy Cook

The Boise Blast men's soccer team rolled into Ketchum this past weekend and rolled out of Atkinson Park with another unblemished 4-0 record.

Handily winning each of its matches and the championship for the third consecutive year, Blast firmly established itself as the one dynasty in the 29 years of the Ketchum Classic men's soccer tournament.

Boise Blast is 12-0 in the tournament the past three years, outscoring foes by a wide margin. The Blast, now winners of seven Ketchum Classic crowns, has beaten Weber State, Logan and Jackson Hole (Wyo.) in the last three title games. Only one of them, a 2-1 win over Weber State in 2003, has been close.

"Pretty impressive," is how Lefty's Bar & Grill captain and goalie Olin Glenne described the Blast's well-worn road to fame on the Ketchum pitch.

Playing with a mixture of veterans and young Albertson College players, the Blast proved again to be a championship squad relying upon sound defense, smooth passing and pinpoint shooting.

"We may not invite them back next year," Lefty's co-captain and sweeper Shaun Kelly said, half in jest. "Three years in a row is a little absurd."

Sunday's championship game looked close for a while as Jackson hung with the younger and quicker Blast, keeping the game tied heading into the halftime intermission.

In the second half, the Blast decided to put an end to any remaining uncertainty. The Boise offense unleashed one after another lethal top corner shots. Blast forwards displayed finesse footwork, dancing around Jackson defenders before sniping three successive shots into the top right corner from as far as 30 yards out.

By the middle of the second half, Boise led 4-1; the tournament was decided. And the dynasty was secure.

Despite the Boise domination, mountain-town squads Jackson Hole, Park City, and host Lefty's all had strong showings: each qualified for the semi-finals with Jackson advancing to the finals only to be trounced, 4-1, by the Blast.

Park City was another Blast casualty, losing in the semi-finals. Lefty's (1-1-1 on the weekend) went down in that round 2-1 to Jackson Hole.

In that semi-final match, though, all Lefty's players were in agreement that their team showed up and played their best soccer of the year.

"It was a great way to end the season," said Kelly.

Lefty's spirits were high against Jackson. "We told jokes at halftime," said outside midfielder Chatham Baker, who said the team's good attitude had a lot to do with its improved play.

After taking an early 1-0 lead, Jackson fell on its heels for most of the match as Lefty's forwards Dom Conti and John Campbell applied steady pressure.

Midway through the first half, Kelly sent a long upfield free kick to Roman Rozmanek, whose shot rebounded and was finished off by a Campbell tip in for the equalizer.

Minutes later, though, on a fast developing play starting from its own goal, Jackson scored on a foot race to the ball as Glenne sprinted out of his goal. Jackson's forward edged out Glenne by inches, flicking it over the sliding Ketchum goalkeeper for the score.

In the second half, Glenne proved his mettle with a couple of outstanding saves while also commanding team leadership from his field-general position in net.

Despite some excellent scoring chances from Rob Butterfield, Campbell and a final top corner try by Conti, Jackson's goalie and flat-back defense were enough to crowd the goal box and keep Lefty's out of the championship match.

If Sunday's semifinal was Lefty's best soccer of the season, Saturday's 1-1 tie against Boise United saw Lefty's best survival skills.

"It was one of the flattest games we've played in a long time," said Baker of the team's early floundering against the Boise United squad.

For most of the game, Lefty's played defensively, watching as United's hunger for the win fueled an aggressive offense.

Down 1-0 in the second half, United created a flurry in front of the net, pulling Glenne to his far right. After a rebound squirted out, United forwards saw a clear shot on goal.

Lefty's Butterfield, fast assessing the situation, ran into net and blocked the incoming shot with a strong header, sending the ball up and over the crossbar and out of harm's way.

Butterfield claims that he has blocked an incoming goal with his head in the past, but it hasn't happened often, "Maybe once or twice before," he said.

For Butterfield, it was the crowning achievement of his strongest game of the season.

Lefty's was visibly electrified by Butterfield's save and, with only a minute remaining in the game, set up a strong offensive passing pattern on United's goal box perimeter.

After some patient passing, right forward Troy Ruckman sent a long pass towards the goal. Campbell, in position for the score as always, headed it in for the 1-1 tie.

By securing the tie, Lefty's advanced past United into the semifinals via the tiebreaker, making the subsequent shootout more or less irrelevant.

In the shootout, Lefty's Conti, Kelly and Ciro Lima each scored for the home team.

Kelly's far-far-left shot first looked to be going wide, but it careened off the left post and then the right before finally dribbling in behind the keeper for the score.

Both Baker and Josh Sonneland shot into the keeper's hands, giving United the go-ahead to win the shootout and the game. United was, by that point though, already eliminated from the tournament.

In its first tournament game Saturday, Lefty's outscored Bigwood Select 6-0 on two goals by Jason Southward plus singles by Campbell, Robin Sarchett, Conti and Glenne.

Hailey's Archive team—formerly San Lorenzo—lost two games on Saturday to Logan (2-1) and Jackson (4-1). Archive went on to beat Lefty's "B" side Bigwood Select, another local team, on Sunday.

As for Lefty's "it appears to be the end of the season" said Glenne, leaving room for the possibility of a fall tournament and contests against Archive.

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