FLC backs itself into a must-win schedule

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald file photo

Kosta Kordistos and Fort Lewis College will have to essentially come from behind if the Skyhawks wish to make the postseason. They have no room for error if they hope to get the opportunity to defend their national championship. They likely can’t afford another loss this season.

By Ryan Owens Herald staff writer

If losses were equated to cellphone data usage, the Fort Lewis College men’s soccer team has reached its limit.

Not that the Skyhawks need reminding. They’re acutely aware of the situation.

Nobody knows better than the defending national champions that their room for error is nil. At 7-4-1 overall and 4-3-1 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, they’ve dug a bit of a hole in a region that’s now tougher to crack for a postseason bid after the South Central got reduced from four playoff spots to three.

But the opportunity remains to make an impact if FLC wins out. Two of the Skyhawks’ remaining games are with No. 2 Regis, which sports a 10-0-1 overall record. The challenge of sweeping the Rangers is daunting, but the reward could be just what FLC needs.

“As a team, we definitely talked about what we have to do to make it back to nationals,” FLC defender Kyle Woodson said at Thursday’s practice. “And we’re definitely pushing for it. It’s always the goal with this college.”

There’s also the possibility of a deep run in the RMAC Tournament, which likely would provide FLC with competition the caliber of Regis, Colorado School of Mines, Metro State or Colorado Mesa.

A 2-1 victory over Adams State last Sunday helped the Skyhawks get back in the win column after a home loss to Colorado Mesa. Now they return home to face CSU-Pueblo on a pitch where they’ve lost two in a row, the first time that’s happened in a decade.

The win over the Grizzlies in Alamosa may have provided FLC a glimpse at the cohesiveness and sense of urgency the team needs going forward.

“I think a sense of urgency and a different team spirit that we had, a little bit more of fight for each other and a little bit more of that quality that we probably lacked against Mesa,” FLC head coach Oige Kennedy said.

The pressure of living up to last year’s lofty stature may have taken its toll in some of the earlier losses. Living up to a program-best 24-1 record and a national championship is enough to make anyone try to press, perhaps try to do more than they’re capable of. Reeling that sensation in is critical if the Skyhawks hope to make a run at the postseason in a stacked region that boasts four ranked teams and just three playoff positions.

“I think there’s always going to be pressure at this program because of where it’s put itself, and I think that’s something these guys are going to have to get used to,” Kennedy said of the three-time national champions.

There’s also the need to focus on each individual game and not jump ahead.

FLC has shown it’s capable of playing with the big guns this year, topping now-No. 13 Incarnate Word earlier this season and playing to a draw with archrival Colorado Mines.

But FLC can’t afford to look past CSU-Pueblo or UC-Colorado Springs, which shocked the Skyhawks earlier this season, en route to its first meeting with Regis. If it does, it could cement its spot on the outside looking in.

“I mean, we’re practicing and making sure we’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” Woodson said. “Just take it game by game at this point.”

rowens@durangoherald.com

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