Aspen soccer has something to prove | AspenTimes.com

Aspen soccer has something to prove

Nate PetersonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Aspen soccer coach Junior Sutherland cant remember a year when his team ran harder in preseason practices.It was unbelievable how hard they worked, how hard they pushed together, the coach said. They were fighting every practice. This is the first time since Ive been coaching Aspen that I did not break the teams up until Monday, after the two weeks of preseason was over. It was the hardest group of kids to break up.Its that passion, that desire to win from his players, that convinced Sutherland to return for his 10th season leading the Skiers following a trying 2007 campaign. After claiming the 3A Western Slope crown in 2006 and advancing to the state semifinals, the loss of one of the schools most talented senior classes hit Aspen hard last year. The Skiers finished 8-6-1 and fell short of a postseason berth, losing twice to playoff-bound league rivals Basalt and Vail Mountain School.This fall, Sutherland has 19 seniors who are out to prove that Aspen belongs back among the Slopes elite.Unlike in 2006, however, there is no bonafide offensive gamebreaker like two-time league MVP Stephen Buzbee.Thats one of the reasons the Skiers have worked so hard as a group heading into the season.These kids, from freshman year and sophomore year, they were trying for varsity places and there were varsity kids who were solid players like Buzbee, Nicky Anastas, Ryder Fyrwald and they never had the chance, Sutherland said. Now they feel they have something to prove to the school and to themselves that theyre as good as that team. They will work hard for each other. Theres no question in my mind.Murphy Fyrwald, one senior who earned playing time on that 2006 team, said that the lack of a bonafide goal scorer could actually be a blessing in disguise for Aspen this year. Everyone will have to help carry the load, he said.I think were going to be a stronger team, because we all look to each other for help, he said. We all need each other on defense. I think as a team, if we come together, well be a lot stronger. That year, we did look to certain players to do certain things and we didnt have to work between all of us, because they could do it all. Without people like that, we need everyone to contribute.Aspen certainly has a long list of players ready and willing to do so. Jesus Meza is another starter back who, like Fyrwald, has played on the varsity for four years and saw what it took to reach the states final four in 2006. Theres also the list of seniors who got their first taste of varsity play last fall: Bo Welden, Robbie Franklin, Kelly Selby, Ryan Dunn, Logan Tierney, Greg Ross, Ben Armstrong, Kyle Lusk, Dane Kornasiewicz, Robbie Franklin and goalie Alex Owen. Sutherland also has high praise for talented underclassmen Christian DeLaCruz, Milo Stark and Will Bloemsma. Sutherland doesnt deny that he has plenty of depth, but hes also not one to make bold predictions. When asked about where he thought his team would finish in the league, he succinctly said: I think well be a competitive team. Im not going to say were going to win every single game, he went on to add. But I think, definitely, in every game well play in well make sure were competitive. Thats all you can ask of your kids is to give you 100 percent when theyre out there. I believe these kids will.Because the preseason practices were so competitive, Sutherland said hes still trying to work out his starting lineup. Aspens three opening nonleague games in Montrose should help firm up the picture before Aspens league opener against Roaring Fork next week. Aspen plays Telluride today and Montrose and Delta County on Saturday.Its one of those weekends, where you dont say that the score doesnt matter, but you like to try people in different positions to see what works best for the team, he said.From experience, Meza knows that a league title means going through Basalt. The Longhorns claimed their fifth league crown in six years last season before falling in the playoffs to Kent Denver.After experiencing only two wins against the Longhorns in four years, Meza said hes hungry for more. Being a senior here, you sure want to beat them your senior year, he said. Pretty much every senior has to step up and show they want to be on the varsity team. … Just give it all and leave it all on the field.npeterson@aspentimes.com.

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