If teams are to be judged by playoff seeding, Glenwood Springs far exceeded its expectations in 2018.
But it didn't necessarily start that way. Through the first four games of the season, the Demons were sitting on a 1-3 record. They had surrendered 10 goals in their three losses and for a brief moment, the waters of the upcoming season appeared rough.
Coach Wayne Smith did his best to preach patience to his guys and stress that three early losses are by no means a death sentence for the rest of the season.
"On the Western Slope there are a few really competitive teams," coach Wayne Smith said. "We've always been fighting to get into that (successful) category. Once the momentum started rolling, we felt like a team that should be right there."
A 10-0 win over Grand Junction Central proved to be just what Glenwood needed. The Demons went on a run, winning nine of their final 11 games of the year. The only blemishes were a 2-2 tie at Battle Mountain and a 2-0 loss, also against Battle Mountain.
The loss to the Huskies ended the regular season, but Glenwood was playoff bound. And it had the weapons to make a run. Then-junior German Alvarado had scored 14 goals to that point. His three in the playoffs pushed him to a team-high 17 on the year, three better than senior Leo Mireles.
Alvarado won't have to look far for support as Justin Garces (11 goals) and Alan Videla (eight) will also be back on the field for the Demons.
"It's probably the strong senior class that I've ever had," Smith said. "(Alvarado, Garces and Videla) are the three main guys. We have a couple of other strong seniors as well. I told German he had to score at least 20 goals this year."
Defensively, Smith is excited to have Mitchell Burt returning as the center-back. He credits Burt as one of the biggest reasons that the Demons found success in tight games.
"We had a defensive mentality that propelled us through the playoffs," Smith said.
The net will also be guarded be a veteran. Carlos Guardado recorded 1,515 minutes in net last year and was crucial to Glenwood's success, specifically in the Class 4A state tournament.
The Demons went in as the No. 20 seed and edged No. 13 Discovery Canyon 1-0 to advance. Next up was the Durango team that had handed Glenwood a 3-1 loss to open the year. Garces scored the game's lone goal and Guardado recorded 10 saves to get the shutout.
A 5-4 win over Kennedy put the Demons into the semifinals. That had been unfamiliar territory for the team considering it hadn't even made the playoffs since 2009.
"We were a 19 seed at the start of the playoffs based on our record and RPI," Smith said. "We got in the playoffs and just made a really remarkable run. Everything was firing for us and we could see the momentum building."
The run came to an end after a 3-1 loss to Air Academy, the eventual 4A champion. But the experience along with the returning players from last year's roster are indicators that 2018 will hopefully be anything but a fluke.
"We have our season opener against Durango who is a program that has been one of the best on the Western Slope," Smith said. "If we get a good result against them in the season opener, that will be a good start."