Sometimes, titans have to lose a few battles along the way to winning the war.
Hardy Kalisher knows that all too well, and he’s hoping that the incredibly tough schedule he put together this year will lead Boulder boys soccer to the throne at the end of the fall season. The Panther head coach of 15 years and 200 wins would know that better than most.
“That’s intentional,” Kalisher said. “We want to play the best teams as early as possible. State championships and league titles aren’t won in your first five games, but I think they prepare you. I look at our previous state championships and it was because we had strong schedules and we learned a lot about ourselves as we progressed. I’d rather lose this game and win the 20th.”
Class 5A’s second-ranked Panthers (4-1) learned that hard lesson on Saturday night at Recht Field, when the boys played near-flawless soccer but still couldn’t get the coveted win against No. 1 Castle View.
Through 82 minutes, Boulder displayed precision passing, smart offense and a defense that worked as one. The Panthers showcased talent young and old, as freshman Xander Sevian netted the first goal of the game in the 41st minute and senior team leader Calvin Pielke followed his lead 34 minutes later on a penalty kick.
“It’s not any individual place on the field. I think us as a unit is very, very strong,” Pielke said. “Easily, there’s guys on the bench who can start on any other varsity team in the state.”
But the Sabercats were a formidable opponent, more so than any other team the Panthers had faced through their first four games. A minute later, they drew a penalty kick from Boulder and netted the equalizer with little time to waste.
Castle View finished the job just two minutes into the first overtime.
“I think our whole team will take this and really notice that we don’t have to step it up, because we played really well today and we leveled with them,” Sevian said. “We’re going to be playing a lot of teams like this in the next couple of weeks and I think this was a good learning experience for us because we have a lot of those games coming up.”
Throughout their first five games, the Panthers have faced 10th-ranked Valor Christian, 4A’s sixth-ranked Golden, 5A’s sixth-ranked Regis Jesuit, fourth-ranked Cherry Creek and the No. 1 team of Colorado’s highest classification.
The Panthers still have plenty of mileage ahead on their difficult road, and they’re primed and ready to take on all the bumps and turns that may come their way over the next six weeks. It’s what they’ve been training for since July, and they believe they have that special magic to carry them all the way to the top.
First, they’ll have to take on the likes of Fossil Ridge, No. 6 Fairview, No. 4 Legacy, No. 10 Broomfield and No. 8 Fort Collins.
“I love this team,” senior keeper Evan Sims said. “I think we have a lot of good players, a lot of talent on the team, but I think what really brings us together is our love for each other, our chemistry. A lot of us have been playing together since we were very young and this is a team that I feel is more cohesive than any team I’ve played on in my three years on varsity here.”