The idea of family is the common denominator in many successful teams’ certifications. For the 2022 Vail Mountain School girls’ soccer team, it belongs for more than one reason.
“Our bond is very strong,” said Gabe Gish, one of two sets of twins — her sister Emily, plus Liv and Kjersty Moretz being the other two — in a Gore Rangers that outlasted opponents 79-22 on their way to a 13-2 regular season record. The No. 4 seed starts her bid for another state title Thursday at home to No. 29 Severance.
“I think there is chemistry; there is a synergy that is partly caused by a core group of players playing together for so long, but I think that simplifies that overly,” said Bob Bandoni, longtime head coach.
“More than that, they seem to thrive on a certain style of play.”
“His style of possession” naturally portrays what he highlights as a “collectively generous group, both in attack and defence.”
“I think knowing each other for a long time – on and off the field – contributes to this style of play: the desire for the ball, the desire for possession, everyone’s desire to be involved when we attack and when we defend,” he continued.
“When we work together and get things done, it’s a very rewarding feeling,” added Emily Gish. The way adults see it, the athletes’ mutual quest to realize their PEEK potential turns the team’s proverbial wheel. After reaching the statewide semi-finals in 2021, the goal is to take the next step this spring. It will undoubtedly require building on the team’s tradition of corporate improvement.
“I think that’s kind of the core of our entire team – we all love to see progress. That’s why we keep getting better,” Kjersti said.
The passionate alpine racer knows personally that this is the essence of the team before she arrives, too.
Sami Gish, the older sister of Gabe and Emily, was a freshman on the 2016 team that repeated as state champions. The program’s rich culture has grown with the influx of each generation, keeping tabs on players and games.
“Because we are so young, we are still in touch with many of our former players,” said Liv, whose father also played with Bandoni on VMS.
“So not only does he play for our current team, he plays for everyone who has played with VMS in the past. It’s really special because everyone keeps in touch and looks out for us every season.”
Tess Johnson, the 2018 Olympian, a four-year-old, is back to kick it off with the girls this spring.
“They’ve had a great squad this year,” Johnson said.
“A group of really talented, hard-working young women. It’s really great to see how the football culture in VMS hasn’t changed a bit – if anything, it has improved.”
Bandoni, who started the soccer program in the 1980s, said working as an assistant principal. Sometimes it refers to the graduate student who wore certain numbers during training.
“There is a sense of responsibility not only on the team for itself, but for the program and its history,” he said.
“There are a number of different basic principles and expectations we have of ourselves individually and collectively that define who we are, and that definition has been built up over years and years.”
Vail Mountain School for girls’ soccer has a rich tradition of a competitive and tight-knit culture. They head into the 2022 state playoffs 3A as the No. 4 seed overall. | Daily / Courtesy Pictures
Because it’s devoid of a single feature, VMS has bowed to its scrolling, spacing, and chemistry. “We’re super connected,” Kjersti said, who denies any “twin telepathy.”
“It’s just another layer of competition you have,” Lev said of the synapse.
“I feel like it’s really uncompromising if you’re not a twin just because everyone compares you. You’re the fastest or the strongest, but I think it really helps us improve. I think it’s an advantage, even though it has some challenges. It’s really easy to see what he’s thinking. the others “.
While intimate family competitiveness sometimes boils over in the field, having two sets of twins provides moments of lighthearted understanding as well.
“Gabi and I can laugh when the Moretz twins get mad at each other because we can relate to him,” Emily said.
In practice, quiet competitiveness fuels improvement.
“We are very competitive – with each other too,” Kjersti said of the entire team.
Emily added, “Usually when someone tries to get into it, everyone’s levels go up, so we try to outdo each other and it’s really fun.”
Her twins continued, “I feel like when you try to be your best, it brings others to try to be their best, and our goal is to be better than we were before and to keep living up to the occasion.”
An integral part of those practices – which has evolved into an inside joke – are Bandoni’s hand exercises.
Emily described the very complex multidimensional activities: “He’s going to come up with this exercise and everybody’s going to be so confused.” An avid watcher of the Premier League, Bandoni’s analytical honesty with players is well-respected and well-received, built on trust and time-honed football intelligence.
It’s easy to take criticism from him,” Kjersti said.
“He’s really good at working with the needs of the team,” Liv added.
These exercises, as complex as they can be, intentionally and effectively incorporate aspects of the game that need to be addressed.
“He looks at the previous match and uses what we need to work on in training,” Gabi said.
“(The coaches) really put in our mind that we should always be better than we were the day before. I feel you can take that into life no matter where you go or what you do. You can always work to be better than yourself in the past.”
Standing on the shoulders of giants
For the most part, the VMS has gone through its schedule. However, in the spring break, they got a refinement with fire, falling to Eagle Valley 5-4 in an overtime loss in which they led with two goals in late regulation.
“I think it was good for us because we were kind of over and over,” Gabe said.
“That game showed us all our weaknesses that we really need to realize,” added Leif.
Their next match was a 3-2 overtime win over the previously ranked #1 Jefferson Academy. Bandoni believes the game tested his athlete in battle. Older people approved it.
“I think it helped us rebuild what we had,” Gabe said.
The leadership group maintains its fitness and cohesion throughout the year, although the innate unity of the team almost prevents it.
“Everyone on our team knows how to lead in different ways,” Emily said.
“Our team culture is one mind,” her sister added, noting that junior and college teams train and play together.
After last season’s recent loss, the 2022 goal is in focus.
“I feel like once we lost the semi-final, we felt like next year was our year,” Liv said.
“I think we can have more confidence than last year,” her sister said.
No. 1, Denver Kent stands above the rest of the 3A field, but the Gore Rangers love their chances. After all, they have each other – and they stand on the shoulders of giants.
“I think they’re the next iteration — they’re an extension of what came before them,” Bandoni said.
“In a very compelling way, they build on the development of the previous teams. So, I think if you look at them in some ways, they do a lot of what the previous teams did, and I think they’ve raised the bar in a way that sort of reflects the overall development.”
For Emily, there’s another show tradition that lit the playoff fires.
“This transition from blue and white to orange and white really feeds me,” she said of the infamous post-season shirt swap.
Gore Rangers will host their first three playoffs—provided they continue to win—before heading to UCCS Mountain Lion Stadium for the state semifinals on May 19. Only one chance left to properly etch their names into the program’s past.
Emily concluded: “We definitely have more to do, but we’ve kept building from last season, and how we’ve developed our skills and as a team has been really great to watch.”
“It’s horrible because it’s like, this is it.”