MANITOU SPRINGS — It's been a fairly light-hearted atmosphere on the Manitou Springs sidelines during the first three games of the girls soccer season.
The Mustangs are having fun. And why wouldn't they be?
After Saturday's 9-0 win over Pagosa Springs, Manitou remains undefeated and is outscoring opponents 23-0. A challenge looms ahead on Tuesday when Jefferson Academy visits the Mustangs (3-0 overall), but as far as starts to the season, things couldn't be going better for the Class 3A No. 7-ranked team.
"We've played really well; I'm happy," coach Ben Mack said. "From our standpoint, we've done everything that I could've asked for and I'm thrilled about that."
On Saturday, Mack's team got goals from six different players. Brooklyn Mack's three goals against the Pirates (0-3) led the team. Bridget Bodor added two while Tera DeRamus, Ailsa Connors, Caileen Sienknecht and Sophie McKeown each added one apiece.
The biggest concern for Coach Mack heading into the season, was the inexperience that his back line would have after losing his senior defenders from last year.
But with the way the Mustangs have attacked the opposing net so far this year, it has helped the newcomers ease into their roles on the defensive end of the field.
"(The forwards) getting wide helps the defense with our shape in the back," DeRamus said. "It helps us push the ball up and get a lot of goal scoring chances."
The start of the season has a familiar look for the Mustangs compared to what they did last year. They started the season with wins against Woodland Park, Bayfield and Pagosa before dropping one to Jefferson Academy. That was one of just two losses for the Mustangs on the year. The other was to eventual 3A state champion, The Academy, in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
With that in mind, Coach Mack has his eyes on Tuesday's looming showdown with the Jaguars and the impact it could potentially have on Manitou as the season moves forward.
"That game is going to be very different from these last three," he said.
Although the Pirates came away from this road trip without a win, their games against St. Mary's (a 7-0 loss on Friday) and Manitou will help shape this team as they move deeper into its young season.
"It's been two tough games," coach Scott Galabota said. "I've seen a lot of improvement in our play. Hopefully it's showing us what we're working towards and what we're building towards."
The Pirates made the state tournament as the No. 11 seed last year, but ran into the buzzsaw that was The Academy.
Pagosa had a few chances to make something happen against the Mustangs as Bri Linzalone had a couple of free kick opportunities in each half. But the Pirates couldn't make anything of those chances. Galabota understood that against a team as seasoned and talented as Manitou, the details are crucial when it comes to taking advantage of every opportunity.
"We've learned some valuable lessons in the tightness of our marking and the precision of our passes" he said.
As dominant as they have looked, the Mustangs are not without their shortcomings. Coach Mack is quick to point out that mistakes on the defensive side of the ball will lead to quick goals for teams like Jefferson Academy.
But as far as he and his girls are concerned, they belong in the conversation as one of the state's best teams.
"I think a team to be reckoned with would be fair," Coach Mack said. "I think we can own that and say that. I'll have a much better idea of where we are after Tuesday."
New rankings are due to be released on Monday, but as it stands now, it will be No. 2 Jefferson Academy against No. 7 Manitou Springs at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.