Sanchez, Buzbee share MVP honors | AspenTimes.com

Sanchez, Buzbee share MVP honors

Nate Peterson

Basalt senior forward Felipe Sanchez gets tackled by Roaring Fork seniors Mark Stover, left, and Brandon Gillespie during a September game. Sanchez earned co-MVP honors with Aspen's Stephen Buzbee this week in the 3A Western Slope. (Aspen Times file)

Despite the efforts of every defender in the 3A Western Slope, Basalt senior forward Felipe Sanchez earned league MVP honors this week after the conclusion of the soccer season.

Sanchez shares the honor with Aspen junior forward Stephen Buzbee. League coaches can vote only for players from opposing teams at the all-league selection meeting.

That Sanchez managed to score 14 goals in his senior season was proof enough that the elusive striker deserved the MVP title. The four-year starter scored in double digits last season and the year before that, which made him a marked man this season.

Opposing coaches were so leery of Sanchez’s scoring ability this fall that they actually designed game plans trying to stop him. In Basalt’s opening playoff game ” a 2-0 win against Colorado Academy ” a defender shadowed Sanchez for the entire 40 minutes. When he touched the ball, another player would come over to help.

In the quarterfinal against Alexander Dawson, the Mustangs opted to play Sanchez straight-up. That strategy ended up being Dawson’s undoing as Sanchez scored the lone goal in the fifth minute in the 1-0 Basalt win.

Sanchez also had nine assists to go with his 14 goals ” second only to senior teammate David Rosales’ 11.

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“I think it’s an honor for him that’s come after all the hard work the past four years,” outgoing Basalt coach Eric Streff said. “He’s had great seasons the last four years. This year, there was no denying that he definitely had to work harder knowing that other people were looking our for him.”

In exchange for their fifth league crown in five years, the senior-laden Longhorns earned five all-league selections from opposing league coaches ” one more than 3A Slope runner-up Aspen.

The list included senior goalie Jamie Wirkler, senior sweeper John Paul Fitzpatrick, senior midfielder Rosales and junior forward Ryan Zubizarreta. The ‘Horns also had three honorable-mention selections in seniors Dennis Morgan, Alex Giglio and Brett Boyle.

While Sanchez was the ‘Horns most potent weapon, Wirkler was just as valuable as the team’s last line of defense. The four-year starter tallied 77 saves this season and allowed just 10 goals.

Streff said Wirkler and Sanchez both plan to play Division I soccer somewhere next season. Wirkler’s current top three choices include Washington University, Vanderbilt University and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Whichever school ends up landing Wirkler will be a lucky one, Streff said.

“He was one of our captains and he was one of the anchors of the whole team,” Streff said. “He worked the hardest out of anybody and pushed everyone. He’s definitely someone they’ll miss next year.”

Rosales was arguably the biggest surprise this season, considering it was his first year playing soccer at Basalt. The senior also had the biggest shoes to fill, stepping in for last year’s league MVP, Cyrus Eaton, at midfielder.

With 11 goals to go with his 11assists, he finished as the team’s second-highest scorer.

“It was such a pleasant surprise to have him on the team,” said Streff, who had tried to convince Rosales to come out for soccer ever since his freshman year. “He made a huge contribution to the team. I think he just decided to do it this year and it worked out great.”

Zubizarreta, Streff said, was the “heart of the team.” The junior quietly finished the season with nine goals and six assists.

“He traveled to Brazil in July just to further his skill and his desire to play,” Streff said. “That made him a better player. He puts forth so much effort in practice and on game days. He was always hustling to get to the ball.”

Fitzpatrick only had two assists, but was an invaluable cog in the Basalt machine from his sweeper spot. Last season Fitzpatrick played on the outside, but stepped up to play sweeper this season when Streff asked him to ” a selfless move, the coach said.

Basalt’s three honorable-mention selections were also crucial pieces in Basalt’s playoff run, which ended in the semifinal round for the second straight year.

Giglio finished the season with 10 goals and eight assists. Boyle had seven goals and five assists. Morgan, like Fitzpatrick, was also an unheralded defender. The senior had one of Basalt’s biggest goals of the season, the first score in the 2-0 playoff win against Colorado Academy.

“They’re all great seniors,” Streff said. “They stepped up when it was needed in order to accomplish our goals. … A lot of time the defense doesn’t get enough credit for what they’ve done. We didn’t allow that many goals this year. That was a reflection of their work ethic.”

Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com

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