Aspen girls soccer hoping to live up to preseason ranking, wins season opener
Basalt girls also off to a good start this spring
The Aspen High School girls soccer team looks a lot different from the last time it played, with many new players and a new coaching staff. But winning has become part of the culture, and it’s so far, so good for the Skiers this spring.
“It’s always a tight squeeze to get everybody in sync, you might say, with how we are going to play the game and what is expected of people,” AHS coach Chris Ellis said last week. “But the girls have been very diligent with their training.”
Ellis coached his first game with the Skiers on Saturday, a 2-0 home win over Delta to start the delayed spring season. AHS led 2-0 at the halftime break behind goals from Lexi Cordts-Pearce and Jenny Ellis and held on from there. The junior varsity team played to a 2-2 draw with the Panthers.
Ellis took over for longtime coach John Gillies, who stepped down after the 2019 season. Ellis, a native of England and the father of Jenny, had been set to coach the team through the 2020 season before it was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There was a bigger story to be had than us losing a soccer season. It was a far bigger impact on society as a whole,” said Ellis, who is particularly glad this year’s group of seniors is able to play, unlike last year’s senior class. “For all the years I’ve known them that they’ve been part of the program, they have been rock solid, and I’m delighted for them they have an opportunity to have that final moment.”
Aspen (1-0) opened the preseason ranked No. 5 in Class 3A in the CHSAANow.com poll. Colorado Academy was the overwhelming preseason favorite, followed by No. 2 Kent Denver, No. 3 Jefferson Academy and No. 4 Peak to Peak.
The Skiers have had one of the state’s strongest programs in recent years, going 13-3-1 in 2019 in Gillies’ last season. AHS made the 3A semifinals in 2018 before a 1-0 loss to eventual champion Jefferson Academy.
Notably absent from the team is would-be-senior Kelley Francis, the record-setting goal scorer who transferred to the Front Range for her final year. Among the names back this spring that might be familiar are seniors Edie Sherlock, Grace Romero and Caprice Seeman, as well as juniors Jenny Ellis and Reese Leonard.
With last season’s cancellation, experience is going to be difficult to find, but Chris Ellis feels strongly the team can defend its preseason ranking and continue the program’s tradition of winning. The Skiers are scheduled to next play Tuesday at Vail Mountain.
“A lot of these experienced players have great attitude,” Ellis said, “and I think that will rub off on some of these younger players, because there are some freshmen who’ve come into the program this year who look very promising and have a fantastic attitude. It’s really nice to see.”
Basalt girls soccer off to good start
The Basalt High School girls soccer team also is undergoing a transition as longtime boys coach Brent Hayes has taken over the helm. Like Ellis, Hayes had been set to take over the program last spring before the season was canceled.
The Longhorns did not receive any votes to be ranked in the preseason poll but have jumped out to a strong start this spring. BHS was 2-0 with wins over Grand Valley (6-0) and Rifle (9-1) before Saturday’s 3-2 loss at home to Vail Mountain, their third game in five days.
Basalt has some talent up top, notably with senior Delaney Card and sophomore Sarah Levy, who have done most of the scoring so far. But any experienced depth quickly runs dry, with many of the younger players being fairly new to the sport.
“It’s still a relatively young team,” Hayes said. “It’s two separate teams. Just hoping to build all these young girls up for the future.”
The Longhorns (2-1) have a couple of days off before traveling to Roaring Fork on Tuesday.
Hayes did say he likely won’t coach the boys program going forward, and will instead stick with the girls. The boys just finished up their pandemic-delayed Season C, going 2-7-1 overall. The team had been a consistent state qualifier under Hayes.
“It’s a different challenge. I’ve kind of run my course with the boys,” Hayes said of moving over to the girls. “It was a fun season. We didn’t do very well, record-wise, but it was a fun season for my last one. Really fun team. Just like this girls team, it’s just amazing with a really quality varsity.”
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